Here’s a quick power ranking of the 0-2 squads who are vying to be the lone team from this group that sees postseason play.
Indianapolis Colts (21 percent chance at a playoff spot)
Andrew Luck, fresh off a six-year, $140 million contract that makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history, was very good in Week 1 (No. 4 in ESPN’s QBR rating after Week 1) and mediocre in Week 2 (190 yards and a touchdown). It is no surprise that he struggled against the Denver Broncos, one of the best pass rushing teams in the NFL. And when pressured, Luck’s passer rating drops from 132 to 53.2 this season, per Pro Football Focus. In 2015, there was a similar drop, from 91.9 to 45.3.
Luck and the Colts now have an easier schedule to face until Week 6, when they face the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.
Washington Redskins (11 percent chance at a playoff spot)
The Redskins are seeking to become the third team to make the playoffs after losing their first two games at home, but based on what we have seen so far, their chances are slim.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is having an expected regression in his touchdown-to-interception ratio, going from 29-to-11 in 2015 to his current 1-to-3. Before you decry the small sample size, consider in the history of the NFL, there have been 15 quarterbacks, including Cousins, to throw 500 passes with a touchdown percentage higher than 5 percent combined with an interception ratio that ran 2 percent or lower. Only five did it more than once: Tom Brady (five times), Aaron Rodgers (five), Peyton Manning (four), Drew Brees (two) and Tony Romo (two).
Do you think Cousins is in that class? Me either.
Washington’s defense isn’t helping, and could be best described as a mess. The Redskins got torched by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and were run over by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, placing them dead last in the league for points allowed per drive (3.80), most rushing touchdowns (seven) and No. 29 for yards allowed per drive (43.5).
It probably won’t get much better, either. Nose tackle Kedric Golston injured his right hamstring on the first play from scrimmage on Sunday and needed a cart to help him back to the locker room and defensive end Chris Baker suffered an injury as well.
Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, (11 and 9 percent chance at a playoff spot, respectively)
Both teams are in the same boat: They share a division with the New England Patriots. The Miami Dolphins even had a chance to defeat the Patriots while they were not only without starting quarterback Tom Brady and Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowki, but also after knocking backup Jimmy Garoppolo out of the game in the first half. They fell short.
Miami gets preference because it isn’t completely terrible. The Dolphins’ offense is inept (0.83 points per drive, No. 30 in the NFL) but their defense has been solid, allowing 1.08 points per drive to their opponents.
The Bills are also struggling offensively, and let go their offensive coordinator Greg Roman — but he isn’t the problem. The defense ranked No. 24 in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric last season and is No. 20 after factoring in preseason expectations this year. And that was before the loss to the New York Jets on Thursday night, in which they allowed 493 net yards and four total touchdowns.
Now they rank No. 29 in net passing yards allowed per attempt (3.2) and allow opponents to average almost three and a half minutes per drive.
New Orleans Saints (9 percent chance at a playoff spot)
Last season, the NFC South was dominated by the Carolina Panthers, with every other team in the division having a below-average margin of victory after adjusting for strength of schedule. The Saints were particularly bad at 6.6 points per game below average, the third worst in the NFC.
The division looks a little more competitive this season, but the Panthers are still the team to beat, followed by the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To make the playoffs, the Saints will have to win one or two games on the schedule that currently look out of reach. But to do that, they must get their defensive coverage in order.
According to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, the Saints’ pass defense has received the third-lowest grade while their pass rush is ranked as the seventh worst. Their best corner this season, Sterling Moore, is surrendering 1.44 yards per cover snap (No. 65 out of 102 players at the position) while Ken Crawley has seen recievers catch 10 of 12 targets for 122 yards and a score, which translates to a 136.8 passer rating against.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5 percent chance at a playoff spot)
The Jaguars were on everyone’s short list of playoff teams, but instead Jacksonville continues to struggle in September. Since 2011, the Jags have never had better than a 1-2 record (2011 and 2015) and have routinely been trounced by their opponents.
The offense could continue to sputter. According to research by J.J. Zachariason of NumberFire, quarterback Blake Bortles might have been too good last season. His 5.8 percent touchdown rate in 2015 was significantly higher than the trailing five-year league average (4.6 percent) and, historically, these passers see a downturn the following season.
So far Bortles is completing 61.8 percent of his passes with a 3-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the year, 28th among 31 quarterbacks in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating. Pro Football Focus has Bortles ranked No. 26 among 34 passers.
Cleveland Browns (2 percent chance at a playoff spot)
The Browns were full of hope as the regular season opened, thinking they had at least a stopgap under center with quarterback Robert Griffin III. Instead, it was more of the same for Griffin, who threw for 190 yards and an interception with three sacks in his debut before a shoulder injury sidelined him for 10 to 12 weeks.
Now the team turns to Josh McCown, who had an injury scare of his own on Sunday but returned and has now completed 20 of 33 passes for 260 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But the injury could be more serious than expected. If he doesn’t suit up, look for third-string quarterback Cody Kessler to get the call.
[Kessler] doesn’t fit the ideal measurable profile teams look for, but has shown the ability to overcome his relative lack of arm talent with high-level pocket passing ability. He is an accurate passer with the ability to throw with anticipation and reliability, but other aspects of his game have been more hit and miss.
The Browns could benefit from Kessler’s ability to throw the ball deep. In 2015, he threw seven touchdowns with just one interception on passes of more than 20 yards. The team is just 4 for 14 on those passes with one touchdown and two interceptions so far this season.
Surprisingly, the Browns aren’t graded out as the worst team in football. Instead they are ranked ahead of the Titans, Falcons, Jaguars, Cowboys and Colts for overall performance by Pro Football Focus. But they are projected to win just four games, which makes any playoff hopes a long shot, at best.
Playoff chances per FivethirtyEight