Checking in on the NFL's Winless Wonders
As the NFL lumbers into week three there are no shortage of impressive statistics and early-season power rankings to pore over. However, as a Minnesota Vikings fan, I am pretty much programmed to focus on the have-nots of the league. I mean, I know it’s fun to start predicting possible Super Bowl matchups, but shouldn’t somebody be caring about the fortunes of those teams that have gotten off to painfully slow starts? With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at those eight lovable losers who have yet to register a win. In fact, let’s start off with my aforementioned Vikings.
Minnesota Vikings. The Vikes held leads in both of their losses this year. But there’s a big difference between having something and keeping something, and thus far Minnesota has not been able to close. This inability to finish games can be blamed on offense, defense, and special teams. None of these units has stepped up and set an example for the others. Good News: Both Minnesota losses have come on the road. No matter who the team is, a road win is always a difficult proposition. The Vikes play their home opener this week against the Browns, a winnable game to be sure. Bad News: Both losses have come in the division against teams that Minnesota had hoped to be better than. If they can’t beat Cleveland at home this week you can probably stick a fork in ’em.
Cleveland Browns. Just like baseball had Manny being Manny, you can always count on football having Cleveland being Cleveland. Expectations never run high around the lake, and it’s probably for the best. The Browns have lost one at home and one on the road to a couple of teams, Miami and Baltimore, that figure to be middle-of-the-pack. Their defense has played decently, but their offense has only mustered 16 points. Good News: Cleveland’s number one draft pick, linebacker Barkevious Mingo, played very well in his first game returning from a bruised lung. Running back Trent Richardson is bound to have a breakout game sooner or later. Bad News: Starting QB Brandon Weeden is out with a sprained thumb (not that he was doing all that great anyway) and Brian Hoyer (yes, he’s still in the league) will start against Minnesota this week. This might be a good time for Cleveland fans to focus on the Indians and the AL wildcard race.
New York Giants. The first two weeks of the season have seen the Giants giving away footballs to opponents like door prizes on a cruise ship. Never has there been a more entertaining 0-2 team. At any moment Eli Manning can throw a 80-yard bomb for a touchdown or a pick-six to an opposing safety. Chip Kelly’s blur offense has nothing on New York’s blur everything. Those who leave their seats risk missing multiple scores. Good News: If you count opposing defenses, Manning’s completion percentage is through the roof. Even without any running game the Giants have enough talent on offense to score with anyone. They also play in a dreadful division. Bad News: David Wilson’s fumbling can probably be fixed, but if he can’t figure out how to block blitzing linebackers he’ll be out of the league faster that you can say Cecil Collins. If the Giants lose at Carolina (a team they dismantled last year) Tom Coughlin’s head is liable to explode.
Carolina Panthers. Carolina had the Seattle Seahawks on the ropes Week One at home but ended up losing 12-7 on a late Russell Wilson touchdown pass. Last week in Buffalo it was déjà vu all over again as E.J. Manuel and the Bills pulled out a victory on the last play of the game. So, basically, Carolina has experienced not one but two soul-crushing defeats. Good News: Carolina faces the also-winless Giants this week at home. Steve Smith is still a badass. Bad News: Ron Rivera is still head coach of the Panthers.
Washington Redskins. It’s tough enough being a quarterback coming back from a serious knee injury, but then having to keep pace with the Eagles’ fast break offense and the relentless Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay attack in back-to-back weeks is the kind of baptism by fire that no one deserves. Playing the Lions and Raiders the next two weeks is almost tantamount to a vacation for Robert Griffin III. Good News: It’s highly likely that RG III will feel more comfortable as the season progresses. Alfred Morris is still a heck of a running back. Bad News: It’s never good when the guy who repaired your knee looks sick every time you take the field. The Skins D has given up the second most points in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers look old and slow and beat up, but other than that they look great. Losing Week One at home to the Titans was a harbinger of horrible football ahead. The offensive line is a mess, the running back situation is a mess, your best receiver is now playing in Miami, and your quarterback hates his offensive coordinator. Good News: Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau will have the defense ready to play every week. Also, there’s always the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bad News: The offense looks so bad that the defense may have to pitch shutouts in order for the Steelers to win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have only been outscored by three points and have two losses to show for it. Man, how does that happen? Last week Saints tight end Jimmy Graham ran wild against Tampa Bay in the first half until someone figured out “Hey, maybe we should try to stop that guy.” Quarterback Josh Freeman remains a model of inconsistency. On top of that, head coach Greg Schiano apparently isn’t a fan. Still, the Buccaneers could easily be 2-0 right now. Good News: Aside from stopping Jimmy Graham, Tampa’s D has looked ok. Doug Martin remains a threat both running and catching the football. Bad News: There are now reports that corner Darrelle Revis is unhappy with Schiano. Does anyone like this guy?
Jacksonville Jaguars. Let’s not sugarcoat it, the Jags stink. They scored two points in their opening week home loss to Kansas City and nine last week at Oakland. FYI, the Chiefs and Raiders aren’t exactly the cream of the NFL crop. Adding injury to insult, their best offensive weapon, Maurice Jones-Drew, is now nicked up. It’s gotten way past ugly. Good News: There is none, unless you are one of those people who count not signing Tim Tebow as good news. Oh, the Jags also look like a lock for the #1 pick in next year’s draft. Bad News: Jacksonville plays at Seattle this week and may just lose 77-0.
Best of luck to all of the winless wonders the rest of the way. To end on a positive note, at the very least two of you will break into the win column this week.