Sunday's Loser Facing Playoff Life Support

It's practically a do-or-die game for the Packers and Redskins, who lost their season-opening games last week. Since the start of the 12-team playoff format, the history for 0-2 teams is beyond bleak. The Packers never have qualified for the playoffs after starting 0-2.

The NFL's spin is comical.

Under the subhead "No Need to Panic" in its weekly "What to Look for — Week 2" release, the league trumpets: "At the end of Week 2, no more than 11 teams will be able to claim a perfect 2-0 record, leaving at least 21 clubs at 1-1 or 0-2. Since realignment in 2002, 79 of the 132 playoff teams (58.8 percent) began the year at either 1-1 or 0-2."

That might be true, but 0-2 is all but a death sentence. That means Sunday's game at Lambeau Field is practically an elimination game for the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins.

These are the cold-blooded facts confronting the Packers and Redskins, who both lost their season-opening games last week: Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, 186 teams have started a season 0-2. Just 22 of those teams made the playoffs, or 11.8 percent.

"It's the next game, so it's the most important game," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "We obviously want to get on the winning side of things, get back to 1-1 and play well. I think as long as we go out and execute and play well, things will take care of themselves and we'll feel good about the game."

Over the previous four seasons, 0-2 has meant an early end to the season.

In 2012, six teams started the season 0-2. None of them made the playoffs.

In 2011, seven teams started the season 0-2. None of them made the playoffs.

In 2010, eight teams started the season 0-2. None of them made the playoffs.

In 2009, nine teams started the season 0-2. You guessed it: None of them made the playoffs.

You have to go back 2008 to buck the trend. A whopping 11 teams started that season 0-2, with Miami, Minnesota and San Diego recovering to make the playoffs.

In 2007, 10 teams started the season 0-2. Only one of them made the playoffs. That club was the Giants, who shocked Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and derailed the Patriots' run at perfection in the Super Bowl.

"Every game is an important game, and that's the way you have to approach it," Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said during his Wednesday conference call. "Both of us are coming off losses. Both teams who aren't used to losing. We won our division last year. We want to get this win, they want to get the win, and we'll decide it on the game field. It's not about talking about it. It's not about, does it make or break your season. You've just got to go out there and do it, and that's what we plan on doing."

Of the 30 teams to start the season 0-2 from 2009 through 2012, only the 2009 Titans and Panthers managed to finish even .500. So, not only are the playoffs a long shot for Sunday's loser, but even staying in contention for the playoffs is a long, hard slog. That's especially true in the power-packed NFC, where there's especially little margin for error.

The Packers haven't started 0-2 since 2006, which was Mike McCarthy's first season. That team went 8-8, thanks to a four-game winning streak to end the season. The Packers also opened 0-2 in 2005 (4-12 finish), 2000 (9-7) and 1992 (9-7) during the Ron Wolf-Mike Sherman-Ted Thompson era. They've never qualified for the playoffs after an 0-2 start, going 0-for-15 in the playoff era (since 1933).

On paper, the Packers have the advantage over the Redskins. They're at home and will be catching Washington on a short week.

"Everything sounds good on paper but we've got to make it happen on the field," receiver James Jones said. "They're going to come here ready, whether the game is tomorrow or (Sunday). They're going to be ready. They're coming off a loss, just like we are, so I know there urgency's up. Their coach is going to have them ready to play this game, so we have to come out and do what we do: execute at the highest level and go out there and score some points."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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