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History suggests 0-2 start is too difficult to overcome in the NFL

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins not worried about catching COVID-19: 'If I die, I die'
Posted at 11:04 AM, Sep 15, 2023

PHILADELPHIA — Two losses in five days already puts the Minnesota Vikings in a big hole that’s been difficult for NFL teams to overcome.

Since 1990, only 31 of the 270 clubs (11.5%) that began a season 0-2 advanced to the playoffs. The Cincinnati Bengals recovered from losing their first two defeats last season to finish 12-4 and reached the AFC championship game.

The Vikings have to buck the losing trend after another sloppy effort in a 34-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. They had four costly fumbles, including Justin Jefferson losing the ball out of bounds in the end zone. That followed up a mistake-filled 20-17 loss at home to Tampa Bay in Week 1.

“Shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “Similar story now the first two weeks in that case. ... Just difficult to win in this league when you lose the turnover battle by one, let alone by the margin we have lost it by, so we have to fix those mistakes and not let it continue.”

Six other 2022 playoff teams are in danger of starting 0-2, including the AFC’s top three teams last year. The Kansas City Chiefs, Bengals and Buffalo Bills each lost their season opener. So did the Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.

Only the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, 2001 New England Patriots and 2007 New York Giants won a Super Bowl after starting 0-2.

“It doesn’t feel good. You want to win,” two-time Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes said. “Obviously, I’ll be motivated as much as I always am, and that’s to go out there and win the week and it’s a great opportunity to go up against a great football team, so I’m excited for it.”

Mahomes and the Chiefs visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in a playoff rematch, so they’ve got a tough battle ahead. Seeing other playoff teams lose early is no comfort to Mahomes.

“I mean, not really. You never know what’s going to happen in this league,” he said. “People lose every week. It’s parity. That’s what this NFL is about, and everybody can beat everybody. You have to come in with the mentality that you’re going to play your best football. I thought we lapsed in that this last week, and we were playing a good football team and they beat us.

"I don’t worry about those other teams around the league because you never know who’s going to be at the top at the end of the year whenever you are trying to find your seeding. You just try to go out there and be the best you can be and stack as many wins as possible.”

Geno Smith and the Seahawks also have a major challenge trying to avoid 0-2. They visit the Detroit Lions, who upset the Chiefs in the NFL opener on Sept. 7.

“It’s good. 0-1 is not the way we wanted to start but no one is hanging their head,” Smith said. “Everyone is looking at ways to improve and really looking forward to going on the road in a tough environment and going out there and trying to get a win. I think everyone is really focused, has a huge sense of urgency, and we’ve been practicing like it.”

Joe Burrow and the Bengals face the Baltimore Ravens at home on Sunday after a woeful performance in a 24-3 loss at Cleveland. They likely won't panic if they lose because they know what it takes to rebound from 0-2.

The Bills host the Las Vegas Raiders after a frustrating overtime loss to the New York Jets, who lost Aaron Rodgers on his fourth play with an Achilles injury. Bills quarterback Josh Allen had four turnovers in that one.

In the competitive AFC East, 0-2 wouldn’t be an ideal way for a team with Super Bowl or bust expectations to kick off its season.

“Excited to get back out on the field and wash that taste out of my mouth,” Allen said.

The Chargers visit the Titans. Both teams lost, so one of them will be 0-2 unless they tie.

“You have to face the tough losses in the NFL when they happen, and you have to learn from them quickly,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said.

The Giants visit the Arizona Cardinals, who also lost their opener but have zero playoff expectations in a rebuilding year.