Slow Start Can Be The End Of A Season

Teams starting at under .500 after three weeks are in trouble according to history.

The NFL is full of teams that get off to a slow start, whether they're perennial playoff contenders, or just part of the also-rans.  Taking a look at the 2013 group of undersacheivers reveals an interesting trend;  The AFC is far ahead of the NFC.  

Every AFC that was in the 2012 Playoffs is off to a good start in 2013.  The same can't be said for the NFC which is dealing with four of their six playoff teams from last season under .500

Here's the list by division (includes thurs night Wk4)

EAST:  Bills (1-2)
NORTH: Browns (1-2), Steelers (0-3)
SOUTH: Jaguars (0-3)
WEST: Chargers (1-2), Raiders (1-2)


EAST: Eagles (1-2) , Giants (0-3), *Redskins (0-3)
NORTH: *Packers (1-2), *Vikings (0-3)
SOUTH: Panthers (1-2), *Falcons (1-2), Buccaneers (0-3)
WEST: Cardinals (1-2), Rams (1-3)

* = 2012 playoff team

Historical results:

Since 1990, 60 teams with a losing record after 3 games have gone on to make the playoffs, according to NFL stats. That's an average of just 2.6 per season.

Last season, five teams made the postseason who had losing records following Week 3.

TEAM 2012 week 3 record 2012 final record
New England Patriots 1-2 12-4*
Denver Broncos 1-2 13-3*
Indianapolis Colts 1-2 10-6
Green Bay Packers 1-2 11-5*
Washington Redskins 1-2 10-6*

*won division


In the AFC, not one of 2012's playoff teams made the list of underacheivers. (2012 Playoffs: Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Texans, Colts, Broncos)

The Steelers are perhaps the biggest story in the AFC, standing dead last in their division behind the woeful Browns who traded their best RB, and can't seem find a starting quarterback.  Brian Hoyer led the Browns to an improbable win against the Vikings and if the Browns can beat the Bengals this week, they'll only be one game out of first place in the division (at worst) or possibly tied  at best (if Ravens lose).  That's a far cry from where Steelers fans believe their team should be.  

It's a completely different story in the NFC, where 4 of last year's 6 playoff teams   seem to be in trouble this season.  
(2012 Playoffs: Redskins, Packers, Vikings, Falcons, 49ers, Seahawks)

The Packers, who lost to the 49ers in the Division round have been a disappointment, losing a close one in Week Three to the Bengals on a muffed run / fumble.  The Vikings lost last week to a winless Browns team on a late come-from -behind win and are now looking at starting a new quarterback (Matt Cassel) on their road trip to England against a desperate Steelers team.  The Redskins haven't been the same since RGIII went out with a knee injury.

The Falcons seem to be the NFC's best hope this week, facing a Patriots team ripe for an upset.  New England has squeeked by a pair of roookie QBs (Jets' Geno Smith and Bills E.J. Manuel) and embattled Bucs QB Josh Freeman who was benched shortly after guiding the Bucs to a 3-23 blowout in Foxboro.

Best of the group:

Buffalo:  The Bills made the Patriots look bad in week 1, barely edged the Panthers by a point in Week 2, were victimized by a late Jets score in week three, but have been competitive in every game.

Atlanta: The Falcons lost by one score to the Saints, Won by a score vs the Rams and then lost by a late comeback from the Dolphins. If they could close out games, Atlanta would be sitting pretty in the NFC South. It's just a matter of time before they figure things out.

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