The Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers both reached the playoffs last season. Both teams also lost their Week 1 opener this season. Now they meet Sunday at Lambeau Field in a battle to avoid going 0-2 -- a hole no team wants to find itself in. (Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 0-2 teams have gone on to make the playoffs just 11.6 percent of the time.) Looking around the league, of the 16 opening-week losers, which team is most desperate to avoid a two-loss start to 2013?
With true title aspirations, Falcons must get back on track against dangerous RamsThe team most desperate to avoid an 0-2 start? It's counterintuitive, because their roster is loaded with high-profile skill players, but the Atlanta Falcons do not want to fall into that mentally harrowing hole. After coming so close to reaching the Super Bowl last season -- and persuading future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to not retire -- the Falcons are primed for another run.
Coming off a tough loss to the division-rival New Orleans Saints, a setback at home to a deceptively dangerous St. Louis Rams team would be a huge psychological blow -- and might cause Mike Smith and his players to press.
Giants really need to take Manning Bowl IIINobody needs a bounce-back win more than the New York Giants, and not just because they lost to a division rival in Week 1, but because of the way they lost. Six turnovers, a fumble-prone starting running back, innumerable other sloppy plays ... and they still nearly beat the Dallas Cowboys on the road. That is a recipe for frustration in a division that -- from the looks of things after the Philadelphia Eagles' surprise victory over the Washington Redskins on Monday night -- will be a four-team race throughout the season, making that opening day loss all the more annoying.
Panthers, Steelers would face serious questions with 0-2 startI am looking at two teams -- the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers -- for different reasons. One thing to remember: an 0-2 start does not bury a team completely; it's just an early hole you must work yourself out of.
In Carolina's case, a loss to a rebuilding Buffalo Bills team (featuring a rookie QB making his second NFL start) would be tough for the Panthers to swallow. In that event, the organization might have to start dealing with questions about job security for the future -- an unwanted distraction for everyone involved.
In the Steelers' case, they were beaten by the Tennessee Titans last week, but it was how they lost that really bothered me. Pittsburgh's offensive line was physically handled up front, particularly after Maurkice Pouncey went down with a season-ending injury. I wonder if the offensive line will be good enough going forward. The Steelers also are devoid of players at running back and tight end due to injuries. Can Emmanuel Sanders and -- once he returns from injury -- Le'Veon Bell provide enough punch to compensate for potential O-line woes? Not to mention, a Steelers loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night could indicate a true turning of the tide in the AFC North.
Packers can ill afford two-loss start, given their daunting schedule in 2013It's just Week 2, but the Green Bay Packers better recognize the importance of winning on Sunday. Washington, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh would all do well to avoid getting behind the 0-2 eight ball, but Green Bay is the team that needs it most.
The Chicago Bears have a winnable home game against the Minnesota Vikings, while the Detroit Lions stand a fair shot at staying undefeated with a roadie against the Arizona Cardinals. Spotting two division foes a two-game lead to start the season wouldn't be insurmountable, but it'd be tough. Yes, the same is true for the Redskins, who risk getting down two games to Dallas and Philadelphia, but the Pack's remaining schedule is tougher. The NFC North might be the NFL's best division in 2013, and along with those six rugged divisional games, Green Bay has road games in Baltimore and Dallas, plus home games against Philly, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.
Oh yeah, and in Week 3, the Packers must head to Cincy. If both teams are 0-2 entering that game ... yikes!
Tampa Bay already looks like a team on the brinkThis one's easy. Most of the good teams in "danger" of going 0-2 -- the Falcons, Giants and Ravens, for instance -- all have the poise and leadership to overcome early adversity. But if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still looking for a win after this week? You're talking Meltdown City -- where the grass is burned and the future's not pretty. This is supposed to be the Buccaneers' year. They're loaded with offensive weapons, and added Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson in the offseason to fortify the secondary. But it appears this team is coming unglued. Josh Freeman looked awful in the preseason and wasn't any better in Week 1. The Bucs lost to the New York Jets in a game that never should have been as close as it was. Add in Lavonte David's brain cramp, and now it's not only disappointing, but heartbreaking, as well.
Then we get the story that Freeman missed the team photo before ultimately not being voted a Buccaneers captain for the first time in four years. Then it was reported that, at a players-only meeting, some questioned the validity of the captain vote, leading to theories that Greg Schiano rigged it against Freeman (something the coach strongly refutes). Do you think the Bucs can recover from an 0-2 start while all of this is going on, as well? This is not a grab-the-ladder-and-climb-out-of-the-hole team.