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‘Power’ ranking the NFL’s five 0-2 teams

One of them is even in Seattle this weekend

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

If the Seahawks were 0-2, WHICH THEY ARE NOT, we might be debating how kaput their season already is, pre-drooling over a top 5 pick, and settling in for a season of mostly developmental football, doing grit checks on rookies. In short, we would be Jets fans.

And truly, save for a curious field goal attempt and a couple of scrumptious Uchenna Nwosu Expelliarmus spells at the 1-yard line, we would be justly juxtaposed with the NFL’s other twice-defeated teams. But since we’re not quite yet sautéed in Seattle, we bozos get to enjoy a few more weeks of moist fourth-quarter palms. Exactly the way we like our Seahawks football: a little existential.

In the immediate future, it’s one of the league’s five season-on-life-support teams, the Atlanta Falcons, who stagger in to Seattle for a meeting between two franchises who know each other well. At least they used to, in the bodacious days of Russell Wilson-Matt Ryan playoff duels. Before the QBdämmerung blanketed both cities. We’ll get to the Falcons, but not right away, because — spoiler alert — Atlanta is not one of the best winless teams out there.

Admit this much: It's way more fun to examine the bottom-feeders right now. Who cares if the unbeaten Miami Dolphins are for real? Who cares if the Buffalo Bills open 10-0 and rout their way through the AFC all the way to home-field advantage? Who cares if the Philadelphia Eagles’ winning frequency Hurts a little? Our Seahawks’ present and future company is presently with the franchises in descent, not the most incandescent or iridescent.

(For now.)

1. The Cincinnati Bengals

Fun fact: The Bengals represented the AFC in last year’s Stupid Bowl, and their roster isn’t any worse. Sure, their flaccid offensive line remains a problem this year, Joe Burrow is a turnover machine right now, and the spark is gone from Evan McPherson’s leg.

Not to worry, this is still a playoff team if they can split their division games. Even if they drop to 1-4 after five weeks (they have the Jets, then a tricky Dolphins-Ravens two-step) I like their chances. All the ingredients that propelled them through the AFC playoffs last year remain in the mix: Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, the second tier of receivers who would easily start elsewhere, that whole defensive line from end to end.

Cincinnati has two sacks and no interceptions through three games. The lack of production is not sustainable. The takeaways will come.

Speaking of turnovers, the Bengals should’ve won a game where they had a -5 turnover ratio, but the universe went full Chaote Mode instead. McPherson missed two game-winning kicks, an XP as time expired in regulation and a feeble gimme 29-yarder in overtime. Then Cincy looked bad on the road in Dallas. Teams often look bad on the road. The Bengals are over the worst, barring catastrophic health issues; although it’ll take them time, they will dig out of this little self-inflicted and self-dug hole.

Final projection: 10-7, AFC playoffs seventh seed.

2. The Tennessee Titans

There is no shame in getting roasted by the Buffalo Bills, unless you’re the Los Angeles Rams and had designs on repeating until the third quarter of Week 1 brought you back to reality. The Bills are good. How good, historically? About as good as you’d expect.

It’s surprising to see an NFL team wave the white flag like the Titans did when they yanked their starters in the third quarter of a Week 2 defeat. I’ll admit to being gobsmacked at first, but then transitioned to an understanding of the situation. The season is 17 weeks long, and the fourth quarter had essentially become another 15 minutes of preseason. Sorry if you had Derrick Henry on your fantasy team.

(Secretly, and don’t tell anyone, I kinda wish the Seahawks would have been as aggressive with their substitutions in blowout wins and losses in the Russell Wilson circus decade, which now rests in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, next to other fossilized artifacts of a bygone era.)

Anyway, in the space of 14 drives against the Giants and Bills, the Titans allowed nine scores for a total of 61 points. Once again, that's statistical noise that the rest of the season will cancel out. I find it somewhat unlikely that this particular Tennessee defense will be the worst of all time, which is what they’ve performed like since halftime against NY.

End of the day, Titans fans should not panic. The division is weak and the season is long enough to erase two early boondoggles. Vegas even still likes them to finish second in the division, with +170 odds to Indianapolis' +135. I don’t believe in the Colts, not for a second. Final projection: 9-7-1, AFC playoffs fourth seed.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

It’s 2022, but the Raiders have not turned the calendar. They finished 2021 with a -65 point differential, made the playoffs when the Chargers gifted them a Week 17 victory, outdid their Pythagorean win expectation by three.

In 2022 they’re -11 after blowing a 20-point halftime advantage in Arizona — and an eight-point lead with zeroes on the clock. They haven’t hung on to the ball (seven turnovers already) and their pass rush is non-existent. Fumble luck will even out, but they’re in the toughest division in football, which will not even out.

Plus, it’s not like Josh McDaniels has a hell of a track record to lean on. McDaniels famously started 6-2 with the Tim Tebow Broncos in 2009, and was slated to be the next boy genius, but since then is 5-14 as a head coach.

This was a 7-10 team waiting to manifest last year, and they might actually hit the mark this year. Final projection: 7-10, no playoffs, no nothing, no soup for them

4. The Atlanta Falcons

There are reasons to believe the Falcons have turned a corner. A one-point loss to New Orleans, a four-point setback in Los Angeles to start the new campaign — those are signs of life, right? Scintillas of hope for another fanbase that’s had more than its share of letdowns, right? Eh, maybe.

Atlanta’s defense is 24th in DVOA, 25th in yards per play, 27th in scoring, and has been worth -13 expected points in just two games while the offense and special teams are average or better. Problem is, in crunch time the Falcons can't lean on a good defense or a stud to lead the charge on offense. They have Marcus Mariota and a coach playing not to lose in Arthur Smith.

Mariota mishandled the snap on third and 1 when the Falcons needed another first down to kill the clock in Week 1. He threw an end zone pick on the last drive against the Rams in Week 2.

Smith punted on fourth and 1 from the Saints 42 after the third-down quagmire. An odious decision, unless you’re trying to not lose. Guess what happens when you play to not lose? You know this.

People like to rag on the Seahawks’ draft choices but it’s not like other teams are always hitting home runs either.

The Falcons are still sending a below-average roster out to battle in a midsection-heavy conference filled with decent and dangerous teams beyond the usual suspects (Packers, Buccaneers). Wins are going to be elusive.

The Seahawks game might be the easiest one left on their schedule. No result would surprise me between two teams building for 2023. Including blowouts in either direction. Final projection: 5-12, fifth pick in the draft, one ahead of Seattle

5. The Carolina Panthers

Writing three paragraphs about the Panthers seems like overkill. Let’s do this the research-free way and get out of here.

Do you follow the Panthers?

  • Yes. I have Christian McCaffrey on my fantasy team
  • No. I do not have Christian McCaffrey on my fantasy team

That was easy. Final projection: 3-14, perchance the first pick in the draft

NOTE: A little shoutout here to all the Twitter peeps who helped me beat writer’s block and contributed by adding a random word to the article. You guys are the best, without you I’d have been lost.

Whitney (@trumplostsuckit) and Dirty D (@akgrl33) — moist

Leonard (@Toblerone_DOTUS) — scintilla

Nathan (@NathanE11) — bozo

Jesse (@TheAxiomatician) — inchoate, which I swapped to Choate

Brendon (@_bkuh_) — feeble

Nathan (@nathan_h_b) — iridescent

Jack (@JackMichaelson_) — boondoggle

Corky (@CorkyKneivel) — gobsmacked

Reid (@reid_josephson) — perchance

Malone (@PropterMalone) — Götterdämmerung, altered with permission

Justin (@JustinM2980) — odious

Ethan (@EthanLudlam) — grit

Will (@beejertron5000) — Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Dave (@Sayers8) — juxtaposition

Pember (@PemberDucky) — bodacious

Thomas (@ThomasL13) — lost (easy!)

Rich (@RichPhelps) — scrumptious

Churlo (@TheRealChurlo) — circus

Kent (@KenaiKent) — existential

Tom (@TRCSnow) — sautéed

Corey (@12thmanmondo) — quagmire

Riley (@PBR_Tallboy) — flaciduous, which I swapped to flaccid

You guys. Thanks so much. Go Hawks, in moderation.