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    An Uphill Climb for the Winless Teams (9/21/16)

    By Rob Pizzola @robpizzola
    There are eight teams that are still winless heading into Week 3 of the NFL season (Dolphins, Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Colts, Redskins, Bears and Saints). According to OddsShark.com, 75 teams have started the season 0-2 since 2007, with just seven of those teams (9.3%) making the playoffs. Here at PredictionMachine.com, we do our best to avoid putting much stock into historical numbers, so we decided to simulate the rest of the season 50,000 times to look at the likelihood of each winless team earning a postseason berth.

    Of all of the winless teams, I don't think it comes as a shock to anyone that the Browns are 0-2. And it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that we project the Browns to make the postseason just 0.5% of the time after their abysmal start. Cleveland was dead last in our preseason NFL power rankings, and they've somehow managed to get worse since the season began, losing their top two quarterbacks, Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III (who are both already below average). The Browns win an average of 3.9 games per season in our simulations, a full two wins lower than the next worst team in the league. Yes, they are that bad.

    The Miami Dolphins have nothing to be ashamed of despite their 0-2 start to the year. Many teams in the league would have fared far worse than a -9 point differential in two road games at Seattle and New England. With that being said, the Dolphins' early season play is extremely misleading. In Week 1, Miami faced a Seattle team that they matched up very well against. The Dolphins' strength is their defensive line and they were able to regularly win the line of scrimmage battle against a horrendous Seahawks' offensive line. We just witnessed the Rams do the exact same thing in Week 2, and pull off the upset victory over Seattle (albeit, at home), so there's little reason to put much stock into that Week 1 matchup. Miami's 31-24 loss in New England is extremely flattering as well, when you consider that they were getting run out of the stadium until Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a sprained AC joint.

    Looking at the remainder of Miami's schedule, we only project the Dolphins to be favored in two games; a Week 5 home date with the Titans and a Week 12 home matchup against the 49ers. With the being said, Ryan Tannehill could potentially improve as the year goes on, and that would see Miami's win expectancy increase in a lot of matchups. Tannehill's 8.6 yards per attempt against New England was a step in direction, but it's important to note that a lot of his yardage came in garbage time when the Patriots were sitting back in a prevent defense. As things currently stand, we project Miami to make the playoffs just 5.6% of the time, although they admittedly have much more upside than other squads who are dealing with major personnel issues.

    The most likely 0-2 team to make the postseason (barely) is the Washington Redskins, at approximately 14.1%. Despite their winless start to the season, the Redskins are actually +0.6 in net yards per play differential, a statistic that is highly correlated to success. This is even more impressive when you consider that Washington has already played Pittsburgh, who we project as one of the top six teams in terms of Super Bowl win expectancy. The Redskins were also arguably a red zone interception away from beating the Cowboys in Week 2.

    Barely behind the Redskins sit the New Orleans Saints, at approximately 14.0% to make the postseason. The Saints have the luxury of playing in one of the two divisions in football that currently does not have a 2-0 team, which means that they have less catching up to do. There are also a lot of question marks surrounding their division. Carolina doesn't have a defense that is even close to resembling the defense that they had a year ago (they may have the league's worst secondary), Tampa Bay is coming off of a dreadful performance in Arizona in which Jameis Winston turned the ball over four times, and for the third consecutive year, Atlanta has absolutely no pass rush to speak of (one sack in two games).

    The remainder of the winless teams all face an extreme uphill climb as well. Buffalo's postseason probability (7.4%) really suffers because their chances of winning the division are diminished so greatly after New England's 2-0 start. The Bills probably aren't as awful as they have looked thus far, but that doesn't change the results from their first two games. Meanwhile, both winless AFC South teams, Indianapolis (8.9%) and Jacksonville (10.8%), have fatal flaws. The Colts' secondary is currently in shambles, and their offensive line cannot block anyone, making it extremely difficult to win in this day and age, even with a top-level quarterback. As for the Jags, their overall talent level is decent but they have a significantly below average quarterback in Blake Bortles, and one of the worst home-field advantages in the entire league. Rounding out the list of winless teams is the Bears (7.8%), who are now turning to veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer at quarterback after Jay Cutler suffered a right thumb sprain on Monday night. Yes, this Brian Hoyer.

    Here's a complete look at the postseason probabilities for each 0-2 team:




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