There are six winless teams in the NFL heading into Week 4. Some of the names on the winless list are surprising while others, not so much. The Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Bucs, and Jacksonville Jaguars are all members of the NFL’s winless club so far this season. Not since the 1998 Bills has a team started 0-3 advanced to the playoffs the same season. Which of those teams has what it takes to crawl out of the winless hole and which might stay there the whole season? I’ll rank the teams from 6 to 1 on which teams are in the most trouble going forward.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers = The biggest question to decide here is are the Steelers a good team that is playing badly or a just plain bad team? I don’t think you can definitively say that they are a bad team. Sure, they’ve played badly in their first three games, but their mistakes are correctable. What has gotten them to 0-3 for the first time in 13 years is the lack of turnovers produced by the defense, the shear ineptitude of the running game that stems back to last season, and the turnovers the offense has given up. The Steelers woes have yinzers going crazy wanting coach firings and shuffling of the roster but the Steelers are getting healthy again with Heath Miller making his return to the lineup last week and becoming a full participant in practice this week. The running game still remains unknown because a lot depends on how rookie RB Le’Veon Bell plays when he finally makes his NFL debut, which the Steelers hope will be this week in London. Also, the offensive line, which has been one of the most heavily scrutinized units on the team, is still in constant flux thanks to the season-ending injury to Maurkice Pouncey and the poor play at both tackle positions. Can the Steelers get it together? Absolutely. Will they? We’ll see.
5. Washington Redskins = In a season that was supposed to be all about the “Read Option” both Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick are struggling mightily to start the season off. True, RGIII is still coming off of his knee injury but it’s the worst-ranked defense that has Washington in the crapper so far this season. If they even have a chance to let RGIII show off his read-option skills they’re going to have to stop getting outscored so badly.
4. New York Giants = The good news for both the Redskins and Giants is that 9-7 usually wins the NFC East so not all hope is lost. The bad news for the Giants is that both their offensive and defensive lines aren’t going to suddenly turn into spectacular units that won’t get man-handled on each side of the ball like they have been through three games. The other bad news is that Eli is turning the ball over a whole bunch so far. With weapons on offense like Cruz and Nicks, it’s hard to imagine the Giants are done for completely, but if they can’t take care of the ball better their lowest point might not be getting shut-out by the Panthers. When people say “There’s nowhere to go but up”, it’s not always the case. Sometimes when a team starts bad, it just gets worse.
3. Minnesota Vikings = There really should be almost a three-way tie for the winless team in the most trouble. If it weren’t for the fact that given the way the Steelers are playing, the Vikings do have a legitimate shot at getting their first win on Sunday afternoon. Losing to the Brian Hoyer-led Browns was a very ugly loss for the Vikings. The team has undoubtedly the best running back in the game but quarterback Christian Ponder will always be the reason why the Vikings cannot win more games. With reports coming out on Wednesday that Ponder suffered a rib injury during Sunday’s loss to the Browns, they might have their excuse to bench him in favor of Matt Cassel. Trouble with that is there’s no guarantee Cassel is much of an improvement than Ponder.
2. Tampa Bay Bucs = When things start as badly as they have for a team like the Bucs it’s important not to make knee-jerk reactions and drastic changes right away. Who am I kidding? That’s the signature move for a team in the kind of trouble the Bucs are in. Reports circulated Wednesday morning that the team will be benching QB Josh Freeman in favor of rookie QB Mike Glennon. Also, with the trade deadline still a few weeks away, the team isn’t ruling out the option of unloading their inconsistent top draft pick from 2009. Amid rumors that there was friction between head coach Greg Schiano and his starting quarterback, Freeman was not picked as a team captain this year for the first time since joining the team. He’s also completing less than 50% of his passes. Freeman threw for over 4,000 yards last season but his overall skills have declined in a time where he should be getting better with each season. Will Glennon be the Bucs quarterback of the future? When a coach says on Monday that one quarterback provides the best chance to win but benches that quarterback by Wednesday, it’s not a sign of improvement for the team. Something tells me this won’t be anything like the 49ers switch at QB from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick last season.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars = The Jacksonville Jaguars are the kind of team that has guys arguing over whether or not they could be beaten by an SEC team because they’re just so awful when matched against other NFL competition. The Jaguars weren’t expected to amount to much this season so it’s not a total shock to see them winless after three weeks as opposed to teams like Washington and New York but it’s not even a disappointment that the Jags are without a win yet and that’s a sad state of affairs for them. Are there Jaguars in Los Angeles or London? There may be soon. Cool helmets though.