Before BountyGate sent their season into chaos, the New Orleans Saints rightfully dreamed of being the first team to play a Super Bowl inside their home stadium. They were loaded with talent, one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL, and came within a whisker of advancing to the NFC championship game last year.
Now, under the weight of scandal and with their head coach sitting home, disgraced, the Saints are in a hole that is virtually insurmountable. Two games into the season they have two losses, and by now they are well aware of the daunting stats: Since the NFL expanded the playoffs to 16 teams in 1990, only 22 of the 184 teams that started 0-2 ended up qualifying for the postseason.
Sure, the Giants became Super Bowl champions after an 0-2 start as recently as 2007, but history is still working against Drew Brees and co.
The good news? They are by far the most equipped of the NFL’s six 0-2 teams to rebound from their disastrous start.
Here’s a look at the teams on the brink of disaster. And no, that’s not too strong of a word considering in that same span only three NFL teams made the playoffs after starting 0-3:
New Orleans Saints—The reason for the Saints’ horrible start has been a defense that has been manhandled and startlingly off performances by quarterback Drew Brees. Here’s the reason to hope, though: Both Brees and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo know how to dig out of a hole. Brees is too good and has too many weapons for his problems to be a long trend. And Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator with that Giants team that went 0-2 (thanks mostly to his defense) and ended up as champs (thanks in large part to his defense). Add in arguably the greatest home-field advantage in the NFL and it would be crazy to count them out.
Chances for a rebound: Good, though with the Atlanta Falcons in the same division they should already be aiming for the wild card.
Cleveland Browns—Their entire hopes are resting on a 28-year-old rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden and a rookie running back with injury issues in Trent Richardson. After Week 1, this looked like a program headed for disaster. But in Week 2, both of them looked terrific against Cincinnati. Richardson ran for 109 yards and Weeden threw for 322. The problem, though, is they still lost and chances are both rookies will have their struggles down the road.
Chances for a rebound: In a division with the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals? Forget it. But next year might finally look bright.
Jacksonville Jaguars—In the first half against the Houston Texans on Sunday, QB Blaine Gabbert had thrown for minus-4 yards and ended up with a total of 53. If that’s not reason to set off alarm bells, I don’t know what is. They have a clearly rusty Maurice Jones-Drew and a passing attack that fears nobody. They’ve earned their 0-2 start and it’s probably only going to get worse from here.
Chances for a rebound: Bad, unless Gabbert is better than expected and they have more weapons than most people think they have.
Tennessee Titans—Running back Chris Johnson is already furious after the Titans’ anemic start – and his too. He has 21 yards on the season with just 19 carries, which is ridiculously bad. The good news, you’d think, is he can’t get any worse, right? Also, a lot of people think Jake Locker has shown some promise. Add in the fact that their early schedule was dangerous – vs. New England, at San Diego, and it’s possible they may have bottomed out.
Chances for a rebound: Good considering Johnson is still likely to push for 1,000 yards on the season. Also they share a division with the awful Jaguars and the rebuilding Indianapolis Colts.
Oakland Raiders—The fact that the Raiders have scored just 27 points in their first two games is shocking considering the amount of offensive weapons they have. They had such high hopes for Carson Palmer, who seemed to develop a great chemistry late last season with WR Darius Heyward-Bey. They haven’t been able to connect and RB Darren McFadden has just 54 yards in two games so far. He’s better than that and so are the Raiders. Their defense isn’t great, but they should be able to keep up in high-scoring games.
Chances for a rebound: These are the Raiders, so by now everyone is used to false hope. A turnaround is possible, but they better hurry before the Chargers and Broncos break away.
Kansas City Chiefs—It is absolutely startling that Romeo Crennel is coaching a team that can’t seem to play defense. The big problem with that is that Matt Cassel is an average quarterback with good weapons who isn’t equipped to keep coming back. Throw in an average rushing attack behind Jamaal Charles (and company) and it looks like the good feelings the Chiefs built up at the end of last season were nothing but a mirage.
Chances for a rebound: Well, they lost their first two games by 16 and 18 points and now they play at New Orleans, and then home vs. San Diego and Baltimore? They’ll be lucky if they’re not 0-5.
—By RALPH VACCHIANO