For eight teams which have fallen into the dreaded 0-2 hole, the third week of a long NFL season offers a decisive dividing line.
Historically, only 12 percent of teams rally back from an 0-2 record to make the playoffs. But falling to 0-3 is practically a postseason death sentence, as only three teams in league history have ever righted the ship after three straight season-opening losses to secure a playoff berth.
The early slate of games this Sunday sees three 0-2 teams attempt to save their season against opponents who have already broken through with at least one win.
The Buffalo Bills have disappointed under head coach Rex Ryan’s tenure, and an 0-3 start this year would likely sign Ryan’s walking papers. They’ll face a tough test in the Arizona Cardinals (1-1). Despite playing at home, the Bills find themselves as 4.5-point underdogs at online sportsbook Bovada.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are also home underdogs this week, with Bovada giving the Jags a 1-point cushion against the Baltimore Ravens (2-0).
For the Washington Redskins, the task of earning that first win is made tougher by travel and tough competition, as they take on the New York Giants (2-0) in an NFC East clash. The oddsmakers give Big Blue the 4.5-point edge, as the Giants look to take a stranglehold on a division that just might be there for the taking.
Two more 0-2 teams, the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns, face off in South Florida for the Dolphins’ home opener. Relying on their third quarterback in as many weeks, following injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, the Browns are big 10-point road underdogs at Bovada.
One game that the bookmakers can’t seem to peg pits the Minnesota Vikings (2-0) against the Carolina Panthers (1-1).
The Vikings have surprised pigskin prognosticators by winning twice, and convincingly so, behind a pair of replacement quarterbacks – but last week’s catastrophic injury to running back Adrian Peterson may spell the end of any Cinderella stories up north.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are a missed field goal at Denver from being 2-0 themselves, and the defending NFC champions just demolished the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) in a 46-27 rout.
This game goes down in Carolina, and Bovada seems to be swayed by Peterson’s absence, with Minnesota as 7-point road underdogs.
The closest contest on the afternoon package is an intrastate affair, as the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) head eastward to battle the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0).
Both teams have impressed thus far in the early going, putting up points while holding opposing offenses in check. The Steelers haven’t allowed more than 16 points in a game, while the Eagles have surrendered 14 or fewer – and both teams have scored at least 24 points every time out.
Usually in tight matchups like this the home team lays a field goal as the standard line, but Bovada sees things differently, installing the Eagles as 3.5-point underdogs.
The weekend schedule concludes with the Chicago Bears (0-2) heading to JerryWorld to take on the Dallas Cowboys (1-1) on Sunday Night Football. The Bears have looked atrocious in two lopsided losses, and without injured quarterback Jay Cutler they are listed as 7-point underdogs.