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The Brandt Report

Texans, Raiders among 0-2 teams with best shot at a turnaround

In 1993, the Dallas Cowboys started 0-2 -- and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Going back to 1990, just 12.1 percent of teams that began a season 0-2 went on to make the playoffs. That '93 Dallas team boasted eight Pro Bowlers and three future Hall of Famers on offense and three Pro Bowlers on defense. Troy Aikman completed 69.1 percent of his passes, Michael Irvin logged 88 receptions and Emmitt Smith ran for 1,486 yards in 13 games.

It's probably unfair to measure the seven teams that have started 2018 with an 0-2 record against that Cowboys squad, or against the 2001 Patriots team that went 0-2 before winning Super Bowl XXXVI and kick-starting the defining dynasty of the 21st century. But that doesn't mean the 0-2 squads should throw in the towel on the season. Below, I've identified one reason for hope for each 0-2 team, with the teams listed in descending order according to their chances to make the playoffs.

Note: For simplicity's sake, I set the Browns and Steelers aside, because while neither team has a win going into Week 3 (though that could change on "Thursday Night Football," when Cleveland takes on the New York Jets), I feel like having one loss and one tie is in a different category, in terms of the tenor of a season, from losing two in a row.

1) Houston Texans

Reason for hope: That defense will kick into gear -- and Deshaun Watson will continue to grow. The Texans' two season-opening road games have not been kind to them. The good news is, the schedule levels out over the next four games, including home matchups against the Giants in Week 3,the Cowboys in Week 5and the Bills in Week 6, with a Week 4 trip to Indianapolis thrown in. The current cumulative record of Houston's opponents in that stretch is 2-6. The J.J. Watt-led defense should come into its own over the next month, especially if Jadeveon Clowney -- who sat out Sunday -- can shake the injury concerns that are currently dogging him. Watson, meanwhile, is a good quarterback, and he'll continue to demonstrate that, even as he works through growing pains like the lapse in the final moments of last week's loss to the Titans.

2) Oakland Raiders

Reason for hope: Derek Carr will thrive in Jon Gruden's offense. Offense is Gruden's forte, so I'm surprised to see Oakland ranked 28th in points scored -- I would expect that ranking to improve. Carr is the kind of quarterback who can lift a team out of a funk, and he showed with his 90.6 percent completion rate against Denver on Sunday -- the highest such mark (with a minimum of 30 pass attempts) in a single NFL game since 1950 -- that he's becoming comfortable in Gruden's system. Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook and Amari Cooper are also showing encouraging signs. Meanwhile, rookie left tackle Kolton Miller is exceeding expectations on the reconfigured offensive line. In addition to mustering up a pass rush following the Khalil Mack trade, the Raiders just need to find a way to finish after giving up two straighthalftime leads. None of the two-loss teams made as big a leap from Week 1 to Week 2 as the Raiders. Gruden's mega-contract set expectations extraordinarily high, but rest assured that he knows what he's doing.

3) New York Giants

Reason for hope: Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley are game-changing talents. I picked the Giants to win the NFC East, but the offense has thus far failed to live up to the offseason hype, ranking 28th in yards and 29th in points. Beckham has yet to make the kinds of splash plays he's known for, recording 10.8 yards per catch this year after entering the season with a career mark of 14.1. I'm not sure he's 100 percent yet after coming back from a 2017 season that was torpedoed by an ankle injury. He'll eventually get there, though. I fully expect OBJ, Barkley -- who set a single-game franchise record for receptions on Sunday with 14 -- and tight end Evan Engram to help this team win its fair share of games. In fact, the Giants (like the two teams listed above them) still have a good shot to make the playoffs.

4) Detroit Lions

Reason for hope: The defense will continue to buy into Matt Patricia's coaching. We had to go through six quarters of mistake-filled football first, but the Lions showed signs of life in the second half of their loss to the 49ers. Rather than trying to freelance and make plays, Detroit's defenders -- who were loosely coached before -- seem to finally be responding to Patricia's scheme. Matthew Stafford is leading a passing attack that is stacked with firepower. When the Lions fully buy into Patricia's approach on defense, they'll be a much better team -- especially if they figure out how to get something out of the ground game. To me, this group is still capable of making a potential playoff push, though I would not put them in the same neighborhood as the Texans, Raiders and Giants.

5) Seattle Seahawks

Reason for hope: Russell Wilson is Russell Wilson. Seattle has been seriously hampered by its anemic running game (ranked 29th overall), while the defense is a shell of its former Legion of Boom self. The main saving grace for this squad is Wilson's proven history of winning. He doesn't have much to work with on offense, at least until Doug Baldwin returns from a knee injury that's kept him from contributing this season, and it's hard to succeed when you're getting sacked six times per game. But you never want to totally count him out. Look at what happened on "Monday Night Football." Seattle was thoroughly outplayed by Chicago at times, but Wilson nearly willed the Seahawks to a comeback win.

6) Buffalo Bills

Reason for hope: Believe it or not, the offense has some potential under Josh Allen. Even if you set aside cornerback Vontae Davis' recent mid-game retirement, Buffalo's defense and offense are a mess. Kelvin Benjamin has a team-high 10 targets but just three catches, for a 30 percent catch rate -- that's ranked 95th this season among players with 10 targets or more, according to Pro Football Reference. Running back LeSean McCoyis banged up. The offensive line has lost three starters from last year (center Eric Wood, guard Richie Incognito and left tackle Cordy Glenn), and Bills quarterbacks have been sacked 11 times in two games, second-most in the NFL. All that said, Allen's development is very much worth watching. He's running for his life back there, but he does have talent. I'm looking for him to develop more accuracy and demonstrate a better grasp of where to throw the ball. I think offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can help Allen improve. Moreover, I like Sean McDermott as a head coach and think that he'll get this team producing at a higher level again, sooner or later.

7) Arizona Cardinals

Reason for hope: David Johnson can still turn things around. I was optimistic about the Cardinals after seeing them in training camp, but it's tough to feel good about a team that ranks 32nd in both scoring and overall offense and has scored just six points through Week 2. (Since 2000, just three other teams have scored six points or fewer in their first two games of the season: the '06 Bucs and '01 Redskins had three points and the '06 Raiders had six.) With center A.Q. Shipleyout for the year, the offensive line has fallen woefully short of my expectations; Sam Bradford -- who I think is still good, when provided with the proper level of protection -- has been exposed to the point that it's suffocating his productivity. Starting a rookie at center (in the Cardinals' case, third-round pick Mason Cole) can make it tough to successfully execute a blocking scheme, and I think that has really hampered dynamic dual-threat running back David Johnson. If Arizona is to have any hope of salvaging this season, Johnson must return to his 2016 self: think something closer to 130 scrimmage yards per game, rather than the 60 he's been posting. Otherwise, the main point of interest in the desert will be waiting for rookie QB Josh Rosen to take the field.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter _@GilBrandt_.

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