No Shortage of Winless Teams in the NFL So Far This Season

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Washington Redskins play their fifth game of the season on Sunday, and they have yet to face an opponent that will enter the game with a victory.

The Redskins opened the season against the New York Giants before facing the still-winless St. Louis Rams, the then-winless Detroit Lions and the still-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now comes a meeting with the Carolina Panthers, who take an 0-3 record into Sunday's game against the Redskins in Charlotte.

"It's going to be a challenge for us," Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. "They're not your 0-3 team that's bad, by any stretch of the imagination."

Perhaps not. But even if one doesn't put the Panthers into the truly bad category, it's clear that there are some odd happenings around the NFL this year. Through four weeks of the season, there are five unbeaten teams and six winless clubs -- the highest percentage of defeated and undefeated teams at this stage in 11 years, according to Football Outsiders, a Web site devoted to statistical analysis of the NFL.

It's an aberration for a league that prides itself on the competitive parity among its teams. "It's been an unusual year," former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said. "Let's put it that way."

Just about everything in the NFL is set up to promote competitive balance. The 32 franchises share revenues to a high degree, keeping a team in tiny Green Bay on relatively even financial footing with a club in New York. The clubs' spending on players is regulated by a salary cap. The draft gives the highest selections in every round to the teams with the worst records, and the scheduling format makes things tougher for the clubs coming off better seasons.

And yet, two seasons ago the New England Patriots became the first team to go 16-0 in a regular season. Last season, the Lions became the first club to go 0-16 in a season. And now, the large number of undefeated and winless teams one-quarter of the way through this season is raising the eyebrows of some knowledgeable observers.

"I think it's too early to tell on the 4-0 teams," Charley Casserly, former Redskins and Houston Texans general manager and a former member of the league's competition committee, said by phone late in the week. "The schedule can have something to do with that. But I think with a lot of the 0-4 teams, they are what they are. They're rebuilding and they're going to be battling for the number one pick in the draft.

"It just seems this year that there are more teams in that rebuilding mode right off the bat than you usually have. That's just my impression. Someone said to me, 'Go back and look at last year.' I haven't done that. But to me, there are more teams than normal that will be fighting just to get one or two wins all season."

The Giants, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts are 4-0. The Rams, Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans are 0-4. The Panthers, coming off their bye week, are 0-3.

Theismann said the Titans and Panthers, who are a combined 0-7 this season after going 25-7 last season, are "not bad football teams, but they're getting bad performances."

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