Coming off a loss to the Rams in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, the Cincinnati Bengals dropped the first two games of last season to the Steelers and Cowboys and headed into a Week 3 matchup with the Jets at 0-2. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the reigning AFC champs were the first NFL team in the Super Bowl era to drop to 0-2 despite being at least a 7-point favorite in both of their first two games.
Despite the rocky start, star quarterback Joe Burrow preached patience. “Let’s all just take a deep breath and relax,” Burrow said. “We’re gonna be fine. We’re not worried about it. Those guys are working hard to get it right. I can do a lot more to help them, too. And we can do more with playcalling to help them as well. We’re getting this thing right. Nobody’s panicking.”
Burrow was right not to panic, as the Bengals only lost twice more during the regular season to finish at 12-4 in first place in the AFC North. But what Cincinnati was able to do is extremely rare, and an 0-2 start in the FNL is usually a cause for concern. Of the six teams that started last season 0-2, only the Bengals made the playoffs. Of 18 teams combined that began the ’20 and ’21 campaigns 0-2, none qualified for the postseason.
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Dating back to the league merger in 1970, 400 NFL teams have started the season with two losses out of the gate. Only 39 of them, including the Bengals last season, made the playoffs, and just four of those teams reached the Super Bowl. Three of them won it. Those three teams were the 2007 Giants, 2001 Patriots and 1993 Cowboys. The Drew Bledsoe-led 1996 Patriots also made the Super Bowl after an 0-2 start but lost to the Packers. Clearly an outlier, last season’s Bengals didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl but came extremely close. The only thing that held them back from playing in the season’s final game was a questionable call in the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs.
Following a season-opening loss to the Browns on Sunday, the Bengals will need to take care of business at home against the Baltimore Ravens in Week to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole again. “Nobody is panicking in here, guys,” Burrow said after Sunday’s 24-3 loss to the Browns. “Week 1 doesn’t define anybody’s season. Obviously, not very good out there. Anybody that watched saw that. But we have been in this spot before and come back stronger and had great years.”
Burrow and the Bengals may be able to after an 0-2 start, but don’t expect your favorite NFL team to be able to do the same.