What 0-3 Teams Could Still Make the NFL Playoffs?

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Week 3 has come and gone. With the Browns and Panthers coming up victorious in their respective matchups, we are still left with six winless teams in the NFL.  While these teams are only one measly game behind a slew of playoff favorites who sit at 1-2 (San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta), some of them simply don’t have the talent or a favorable enough schedule to overcome a rough start and make a push to get into the playoffs. Let’s take a team-by-team look at these losers:

Pittsburgh Steelers:
The Steelers missed the playoffs last season despite a better start to the season than they are off to this year.   Losing Larry Foote and Maurkice Pouncey for the year was devastating but there is hope: They have lost to two of the best teams in the NFL right now (Bears, Bengals) and one of its most surprising (Titans), and the schedule gets easier from here on out with two against the Browns plus the Jets, Bills, Raiders and Vikings on the horizon. Antonio Brown is a legitimate #1 receiver in the place of Mike Wallace. The Bengals and Ravens will duke it out for the division, so the most they can hope for is a wild card berth. Playoff Chances: Possible but Unlikely.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Tampa Bay has to figure out how to win the close ones. Not that Sunday’s beatdown from New England was close in any way. This team has some nice talent (including Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, who was sidelined for a half on Sunday), but Josh Freeman is not the long-term answer the organization once thought he was. Luckily, the Panthers and Falcons have stumbled out of the gate as well, so they are only a New Orleans Saints meltdown away from being right back in the thick of things in the NFC South. But a loss to Arizona, who plays tough defense, will send them to 0-4 and cement this season as a failure. Playoff Chances: Zero.

Minnesota Vikings:
This would be a lot easier to project if Christian Ponder weren’t the QB for this team. The NFL Red Zone Channel made it a special point on Sunday to show Ponder’s 37-yard strike to Cordarrelle Patterson because, quite frankly, that never happens. Adrian Peterson may think it’s easy to rush for 100 yards in a game but has failed to do so in two of three games so far, including Sunday’s loss to the hapless Browns. And it’s all because teams know Ponder is a poor passer. Even taking into account the typical late-season meltdown by the Bears and only being a game worse than the Packers at this point in the season, I can’t see the Vikings riding AP to the playoffs again this year. It’s gonna take a much-improved Ponder. The remaining schedule is pretty brutal, including two against the Packers, the Bears once again, a trip to Seattle plus the Ravens and Bengals. Playoff Chances: Highly Unlikely.

Washington Redskins:
RGIII is back! RGIII is back! Too bad not much else has gone right for the ‘Skins since the season began. To emphasize this, a late go-ahead 57-yard touchdown pass was called back on a penalty on Sunday, long after RGIII had already been carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates and long after the color guy had announced this was the loudest the home crowd had gotten since the team walked out of the tunnel for their week 1 home opener. But hey, things could be much, much worse. Look at the NFC East: The Giants are also 0-3. The Eagles, who nearly blew the game against Washington, are a “too little, too late” comeback attempt away from being 0-3 themselves. The Cowboys are 2-1 with two wins against teams who are a combined 1-5 on the season. Kiss the wild card goodbye because this division beats the hell out of itself. But there’s always hope to win the NFC East. Always. Playoff Chances: Realistic.

New York Giants:
Haven’t we seen this team play mediocre football for large chunks of the season at a time…only to recover and win the Super Bowl? Haven’t we? Eli Manning is not as bad as he has been playing this season. Neither is the defense. But the reality is that other teams have gotten better while the Giants have gotten worse. But they do play in the NFC East. Still, the next 3 games to be played are against the Chiefs, Eagles and Bears. It doesn’t look promising despite the fact that they are in the NFC East. Playoff Chances: Possible but Unlikely.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
Poor Gus Bradley. Maurice Jones-Drew is aging. Blaine Gabbert is ailing. Chad Henne might be better than Gabbert but that isn’t saying much. Cecil Shorts is your #1 wideout. And the reason you were hired – your defensive prowess – is buried by the fact that your defense is always out on the field thanks to the ineptitude of your offense.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel. But the tunnel’s end is probably two or three seasons away.  Playoff Chances: Gimme a break.

BY DANE-MYCHAL MARVIN ON SEPTEMBER 23, 2013

Follow Dane @DaneMychal on Twitter

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