By Ashley Scoby
USA Today ran the numbers, and teams that start 0-2 like the Lions are – newsflash – far less likely to make the playoffs. According to the story, “over the past six seasons you have a 4% chance of making the playoffs if you’re winless headed into Week 3.” And since the NFL expanded to its playoff format in 1990, only 11.2 percent of 204 teams to start 2-0 have made the playoffs that season.
Of course, some of those numbers are skewed by the fact that the majority of teams in the NFL don’t make the playoffs each year. And they’re skewed by the inevitable terrible teams each year that wouldn’t make the playoffs anyway, even if they started 1-1 or 2-0.
There have also been teams that bucked the trend: The 2001 Super Bowl-winning Patriots started out the season 0-2 after losing to the Bengals (23-17) and Jets (10-3). After that inauspicious start, New England finished the regular season 11-5, including a six-game win streak at the end. They beat the Rams in that year’s Super Bowl.
With the way the Lions are playing, a Super Bowl probably isn’t in the cards. The offensive line has struggled, leaving Matthew Stafford to the wolves. He’s been hit and sacked seemingly every other play over the past two weeks. Calvin Johnson hasn’t been Megatron. The run game has been anemic. And the Lions’ defense is in the bottom ten of the league, both against the run and against the pass.
And if Detroit wants to beat the statistics and get to the playoffs, it won’t have an easy road there. The Lions’ next two games are against the Broncos (including Peyton Manning, and perhaps more importantly, quarterback-killer Von Miller) and at Seattle (against a ticked-off Seahawks team that also started the year 2-0).
The game against Denver (at home) might prove the most important: According to the USA Today article, only five teams in history have made it to the playoffs after starting a season 0-3.