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Overcoming 0-2 start difficult chore in NFL

| Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009

The Tennessee Titans won the AFC South, the Miami Dolphins the AFC East and the Carolina Panthers the NFC South a year ago with a combined 36-12 record.

But if those three teams don't find a way to scratch out a victory this weekend on the road, they all might as well pack it up and go home.

Tennessee, Miami and Carolina have yet to win this year, making Week 3 a crucial one.

NFL history says if you start the season 0-3, you have little chance to make the playoffs and no chance to advance to the Super Bowl. It has never happened in 43 tries when a team started 0-3.

Only three teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3 since the NFL went to six playoff teams in each conference in 1990.

The last time it happened was 1998, when the Buffalo Bills opened with losses to San Diego, Miami and St. Louis, but rebounded to sneak in as a wild-card team by winning 10 of its final 13 games.

San Diego overcame an 0-3 start in 1992, and Detroit did it in 1998. Only the '92 Chargers won a playoff game, but they fell in the divisional round.

"It means you've got to turn up the level of urgency, because, no matter that it's a 16-game season, you have to turn things around quickly," Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins said after the Titans lost their home opener to Houston.

The level of urgency will peak when the Titans take on the upstart and undefeated New York Jets on Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Last year, the Jets went into Nashville and handed the 10-0 Titans a 34-13 whipping.

"They are 0-2, but they can easily be 2-0," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.

The others don't have it easy, either. Miami travels to San Diego, and Carolina visits Dallas' new stadium Monday night.

Miami started 0-2 last year before rallying to win the division.

The other 0-2 teams this year are Jacksonville, Kansas City, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

The odds are stacked against the 0-2 entries — Miami, Carolina and Tennessee included.

Since 1990, only about 10 percent of the 160 teams that started the season 0-2 made the playoffs. Since the NFL adopted the 16-game schedule in 1978, only 26 teams with 0-2 records have made the playoffs. Three went on to win the Super Bowl (Dallas in 1993, New England in 2001 and the New York Giants in 2007).

The most famous team to go against the odds was the '07 Giants. The Giants lost to Dallas, 45-35, in Week 1 and were routed, 35-13, by Green Bay. The Giants rebounded to win six in a row, make the playoffs and beat New England in Super Bowl XLII.

The Steelers started 0-2 in 1989 by losing to Cleveland, 51-0, and Cincinnati, 41-10. They went 9-7 that year, made the playoffs, upset the Oilers in Houston in the wild-card round before losing, 24-23, to Denver in the divisional round at Mile High Stadium.

Staring at 0-3

A look at the 0-2 NFL teams this season and who they face in Week 3:

Team: Week 1-2 losses — Week 3 foe

*Miami: Falcons, Colts — at Chargers

Jacksonville: Colts, Cardinals — at Texans

*Tennessee: Steelers, Texans — at Jets

Cleveland: Vikings, Broncos — at Ravens

Kansas City: Ravens, Raiders — at Eagles

*Carolina: Eagles, Falcons — at Cowboys

Tampa Bay: Cowboys, Bills — Giants

Detroit: Saints, Vikings — Redskins

St. Louis: Seahawks, Redskins — Packers

*-Won division title in 2008

Top five

1. Giants — Plaxico who• Mario Manningham caught 10 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys.

2. Ravens — Is the balance of power shifting in AFC North• Offense looks like it's finally on par with Baltimore's formidable defense.

3. Jets — Finally beat the Patriots in the Meadowlands. Whatever first-year coach Rex Ryan is selling in New York, his players are buying.

4. Falcons — May have the most balanced offense in the NFL, and revamped defense has looked good so far.

5. Colts — Defense looked shaky against the Dolphins, but Peyton Manning still controls a game as well as any quarterback in the NFL.

Bottom five

28. Panthers — The Bill Cowher Watch in Charlotte will start if John Fox doesn't get things turned around. And fast.

29. Chiefs — Todd Haley, an Upper St. Clair High graduate, is not off to a good start in his first year as coach of the Chiefs.

30. Browns — It will be another long year for Cleveland fans if offense is as anemic as it was in a 27-6 loss to the Broncos.

31. Rams — Almost beat the Redskins on the road, but that is more of an indictment of Washington. St. Louis has seven points in two games.

32. Lions — Patience, Lions fans, patience. It will take years to clean up the mess Matt Millen left in Detroit.

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