Despite the NFL schedule increasing from 16 to 17 games last season, no team that started 0-2 went on the make the playoffs. The last time a team started 0-2 and went on to make the playoffs was 2018. Since 2007, just 12 of 125 teams that started 0-2 went on to make the playoffs. Starting 0-2 isn't a total death sentence, but it is pretty close.
What makes this fascinating is that three teams that made the playoffs last season have started the season 0-2. The Tennessee Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC while the Cincinnati Bengals represented the conference in the Super Bowl. The Las Vegas Raiders made the playoffs and then added arguably the best receiver in football. Now, all three teams are 0-2. What do oddsmakers think the chances are that any of these three teams rebound and end up making the playoffs?
All 0-2 teams are now favored to miss the playoffs
Not all 0-2 teams are made equally. The Atlanta Falcons were projected to be one of the worst teams in football. They have been more competitive than many expected, as evidenced by their 2-0 record against the spread, but they're still 0-2 in the real standings. They are -3000 favorites to miss the playoffs, but they were always extreme long shots to make the playoffs.
The Carolina Panthers were also sizable favorites to miss the playoffs before the season began. They've opened the season by losing a pair of coin-flip games on late field goals. They could very easily be 2-0, but instead they are 0-2 and have let two winnable games go by the wayside. As a result, the Panthers are now -800 favorites to miss the postseason.
The three other 0-2 teams is where the intrigue begins.
Who are oddsmakers highest on?
Of the 0-2 teams, the team oddsmakers have most confidence in rebounding is Cincinnati. However, they're still -175 favorites to miss the playoffs. Those odds suggest they still miss the playoffs almost 64% of the time. The Bengals are the first team in the Super Bowl era to lose both of their first two games when favored by at least a touchdown in each game.
Through two games, Joe Burrow has been sacked 13 times. The offensive line was supposed to be much improved after adding three new starters over the offseason. However, Burrow isn't helping things by holding the ball too long. For all of the talent on offense for the Bengals, it has looked a little broken through two weeks.
What about Tennessee?
Tennessee is now a -200 favorite to miss the playoffs, and that number would probably be a lot higher if they didn't play in the AFC South. Still, those odds suggest the Titans miss the playoffs two-thirds of the time.
They lost their opener at home to the Giants as a 5.5-point favorite and then were annihilated by the Bills in Week 2. Derrick Henry certainly looks slower since returning from his foot injury last year. Their best pass-catching weapon from last season is now in Philadelphia. They lost talent on the offensive line and on defense. It's an extremely flawed team and if Henry isn't Henry, it could be bleak in Tennessee. Their saving grace is that the AFC South looks even weaker than many anticipated with Matt Ryan and the Colts looking terrible through two weeks.
And the Raiders?
It was always going to be tough for the Raiders to get back to the playoffs in the AFC West. Most had them ranked as the fourth best team in the division. However, an 0-2 start makes things even tougher. Las Vegas is now a -350 favorite to miss the playoffs in 2022.
The Raiders had the Cardinals on the ropes in Week 2, taking a 20-0 lead into halftime. However, they couldn't stop Kyler Murray in the fourth quarter. Las Vegas had a chance to salvage the game in overtime, but Hunter Renfrow fumbled the game away.
Through two weeks, the Raiders have scored just 42 points. With Josh McDaniels calling plays and a group of talent that includes Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs, expectations were higher. It's still early and a new system is being installed, but it gets late quickly in the NFL, as the odds reflect.
How to bet 0-2 teams
You can debate the value of trends, but at the very least, it's interesting information.
Since 2010, NFL teams that start the season 0-2 straight up are 55-40-1 against the spread in Week 2. That's nearly a 58% cover rate. However, teams that are 0-2 both straight up and against the spread are 37-23 against the spread in Week 3. That's an even better 62% win rate. Teams that fall into that category include Tennessee, Carolina and Cincinnati.
Usually, an 0-2 team will be an underdog in Week 3. However, if they're a favorite, the trend reverses. 0-2 teams that are favored in Week 3 are just 9-13 (41%) against the spread since 2010. This week, the Bengals are 5-point road favorites against the Jets. Two 0-2 teams meet in Tennessee, where the Raiders are a 2.5-point road favorite against the Titans.
Elsewhere, the Panthers are a 3-point home underdog against the Saints and the Falcons are 2-point road underdogs in Seattle.