TORONTO - Seven teams have started the season 0-2. The question is can any of them manage a win this Sunday? Following are the five teams from that group who have the best chance of getting into the win column.
1. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are at home against the 1-1 Jacksonville Jaguars and are favoured by three points. Jacksonville opened up with a 16-14 victory over Tennessee then was crushed 32-3 last week by the Jets. In the process, head coach Jack Del Rio has made the switch at quarterback from the lightly regarded Luke McCown, who threw four interceptions in three quarters against the Jets, to rookie Blaine Gabbert. The Panthers, meanwhile, are led by rookie quarterback Cam Newton and despite the two loses, he is the biggest story of the young NFL season. Newton has had two consecutive 400-plus yard passing games and that matchup doesn’t favour the Jaguars who have allowed an average of 295 passing yards in their first two games. We like Carolina’s chances in this one.
2. Miami Dolphins
The best thing that the Dolphins have going for them this weekend is the fact they are not playing at home. The Fish opened up with losses at home against two tough opponents in New England and Houston and now hook up against a team that is on a par with their overall ability, the Cleveland Browns. At home, Miami has lost 11 of their past 12 games which is about as unbelievable as it gets. Offensively the Dolphins have a number of questions as quarterback Chad Henne is hitting on just 53% of his passes. They may have found a running back, though, as rookie Daniel Thomas last week gained 107 yards on 18 carries. Browns quarterback, Colt McCoy, meanwhile, is adjusting to the new offensive scheme and doesn’t have any downfield threats at wide receiver. This could be the Dolphins week.
3. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have looked positively dreadful, losing 33-17 to San Francisco and then being shut out 24-0 by the Steelers. But both those games were on the road where the Seahawks simply stink. This is their home opener and they get to face the inconsistent Arizona Cardinals who are 1-1. In both their losses the Seahawks have been slow out of the gate and have been outscored by a combined 33-0 in the first half. So a quick start is fundamental. Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has completed 62% of his passes but needs to throw the ball down the field and open things up. The Seahawks also better find a pass rush or they will be shredded by Arizona’s Kevin Kolb. Even at home we don’t like the Seahawks chances.
4. St. Louis Rams
This one is going to be real tough for the Rams and last week’s loss on the road against the Giants was a deflator. The Rams need a big bounce back against a team as tough as the Baltimore Ravens or their brutal opening schedule could eat them up and they could easily be looking at an 0-7 start. Following the Ravens, the Rams get Washington at home, have a bye week, then travel to Green Bay and Dallas before a home date against the Saints. Ka-rumba! The blueprint for the Rams was supplied last week by the Titans who scored a 26-13 upset over Baltimore. In that game, the Titans hounded quarterback Joe Flacco who was just 15-for-32 with a couple of interceptions. The Rams need to duplicate that effort. Offensively, though, the Rams have shown little as sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford has thrown just one touchdown pass. We don’t like the Rams in this one.
5. Minnesota Vikings
Honestly, we think the Vikings will get crushed by the high-flying Detroit Lions but we needed five teams and we don’t think there is any way that the 0-2 Kansas City Chiefs have a chance against the San Diego Chargers. Ditto for the horrible Indianapolis Colts (0-2) against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those teams have absolutely no hope. The Vikings, meanwhile, are at home where they have traditionally been tough but the play of veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb has simply been terrible. He looks completely shot. For the Vikings to have any hope they’ll need a big game from running back Adrian Peterson as they need to keep the Lions offence off the field. The Lions, meanwhile, look poised to open their season 3-0 for the first time since 1980.