When an NFL team loses its first two games of the season, it always downplays the slow start and notes, among other things, that it’s a long season.
So it was not surprising that when New Orleans was one of nine teams to start off 0-2 this season, the Saints played the “long season” card.
“It’s a long season, but 0-2 doesn’t make you who you are,’’ said wide receiver Ted Ginn.
Well, in many ways it does — and the Saints know it.
They’re 1-11 in September the last four years, and this is the fourth year in a row they have started out 0-2. New Orleans finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs the previous three years.
That’s not unusual. Since the current playoff formula started in 1990, only 12 percent of the teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs.
Last year, the Miami Dolphins were the only team to start 0-2 and make the playoffs. They even climbed out of a 1-4 hole.
By contrast, the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans and New York Giants started out 2-0 and made it.
The Steelers and Packers overcame four-game losing streaks during the season and still made it. That suggests it is easier to overcome a long losing skid during the season than it is to start off 0-2.
One of the reasons teams with 0-2 starts don’t make the playoffs is that they’re not very good.
Nobody is surprised that the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts without Andrew Luck all started out 0-2. All five have quarterback issues, and four had losing records last year while the Colts were 8-8.
It somewhat surprising that the Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, Saints and Los Angeles Chargers are 0-2. All four have veteran quarterbacks.
But the Bengals, Saints and Chargers all had losing records last year, so maybe it’s not all that surprising.
In any case, the odds are against the 0-2 teams making the playoffs this year.
By contrast, eight teams are off to 2-0 starts – Kansas City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Oakland.
It will be no surprise if five or six of them make it.
Miami and Tampa Bay are 1-0, and one of them would be 2-0 if their game hadn’t been posted by Hurricane Irma.
It turns out a 1-1 start isn’t much of a handicap. Six teams that started out 1-1 made the playoffs last year.
We’ll check back at the end of the season to see if any of the nine 0-2 teams make it.
If they don’t, it means we have 23 unbeaten and 1-1 teams vying for 12 playoff spots.