NFL Sunday: Giants and Panthers Look For the First Win


Teams that are 0-2 are in desperation mode as we enter the third Sunday. Today, there are two showdowns where the loser will definitely be 0-3. One is in Minnesota, where the Browns will start Brian Hoyer and just traded Trent Richardson. The other is in Carolina, where the turnover-prone Giants go against the team that cannot win close games, the Panthers.

I’ll dump in some research I did last week here. You will see the numbers on 0-2 and 0-3 teams reaching the playoffs. I wanted to see if this was just a function of knowing that Team X had two losses when looking at a random set of games, or whether teams that started slow were worse off than others who had a two game losing streak mid-season when it came to playoff trouble.

Think of it like Texas Hold Em. You get to see two hole cards. Can you estimate the chances of winning the hand based on those? In this case, if I randomly show you two results, can you estimate the chances?

It would appear that weeks 1 and 2 are not special. Here is a summary of the total number of teams to go 0-2 in any given consecutive two game stretch since 1990, along with the percentage of those teams that reached the postseason.

On average, if you knew that a team lost two consecutive games in looking at any random two game stretch, you would give that team a 13% chance. The lowest result is Games 9 and 10, where only 8.6% of the teams that lost those two have made it. The best result is Games 7 and 8, with 15.6% of teams reaching the postseason. Weeks 1 and 2 are special only in that stand out in our minds and are not in the middle of a group. Last year, there were 131 times a team lost back to back games, obviously more accounted for by teams like Jacksonville and Kansas City than playoff teams. The playoff teams combined for only 14 of those occasions. (Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta, and . . . Indianapolis were the only ones never to lose consecutive games).

A loss is a loss is a loss. They all count, and if you want to get to the postseason, unless you are in an easy division or conference, you probably have six, maybe seven to use up. An 0-3 start means you have used up half of them before we get to the end of September. The Giants and Panthers came into this year with postseason aspirations. The Giants can survive a loss better, if only because no one else in their division has won a game outside the NFC East. The Panthers are in an uphill climb in the NFC South, and the wildcard will be competitive with the NFC West runner up, the New Orleans/Atlanta runner up, and the runner up in the North all likely to be chasing at least 10 wins.

One has to wonder how long Ron Rivera survives if Carolina loses. Carolina is an astonishing 2-14 in close games under Ron Rivera. Another one today, and the playoffs are pretty much a pipe dream before September ends for the third time in three years.

It won’t be easy, as Carolina comes in with a depleted secondary trying to slow down Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning. They must hope for the tipped interceptions and kicked balls that the Giants have provided to their first two opponents, and for the talented front seven to protect the back line. It might help if the offense began to show some signs of life under new offensive coordinator David Shula.

Other 1 PM Games:

Houston at Baltimore

Tampa Bay at New England

Detroit at Washington

Cleveland at Minnesota

St. Louis at Dallas

Green Bay at Cincinnati

San Diego at Tennessee

Arizona at New Orleans

[photo via USA Today Sports Images]