Three weeks into the NFL season, the playoffs are likely a pipe dream for fans of the four 0-3 teams, but I am going to do something I do not normally do, be an optimist. Here are rays of hope for each winless team.
Browns (they play hard) – Believe me, I am the last guy that will ever believe in “participation trophies” and “moral victories” in sports. The fact is the Browns have been and will be overmatched in every game they play this season. Despite that, they have been in each of their three games almost right to the wire. They missed three field goals in their overtime loss to Miami on Sunday. It does not take a rocket scientist to do that math. They have some really nice speed on offense. Terrelle Pryor has taken to wide receiver like a duck takes to water. He has made at least one big play in each game this season. It also helps the new head coach Hue Jackson is an eternal opti
mist, a necessary quality when you are the head coach of the Browns. The quarterback carousel will continue to hamper this team. However, I do not know who will be, but Cleveland will upset the apple cart for some contending team out there this season.
Saints (Brees gives them a chance in every game) – New Orleans has scored 30+ points in two of their three games. Yet, they remain winless. I do not care how slanted towards offense the rules are, that should never happen. It looked like they were playing about six guys on defense Monday against Atlanta. At one point, they gave up touchdowns on five straight drives, but that is not the fault of their quarterback. Drew Brees threw for 376 yards, three scores, and just one interception Monday night. There is not a coach in this league who would not take that every week from their signal caller. Assuming Brees remains himself, they have a shot to finish .500 and can beat anyone. The question is can the defense get stops with any kind of regularity and will the current regime stay in place beyond this season?
Bears (they have the right coach) – This was my sleeper playoff team in 2016 (ridiculous I know). Their season has been disaster from the word go. 15 of 53 players have already spent time on the injury report. Quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Jeremy Langford, and linebacker Danny Trevathan are all on the shelf for an extended period of time. The Bears now have guys in key spots that just are not ready for an NFL field yet. This can happen when you have a young roster they gets hurt by injuries. The good news for Bears fans is John Fox. He inherited dumpster fires in both Carolina and Denver. He had both franchises back in the playoffs within two years, including reaching the Super Bowl once with each. This is only year two for Fox in Chicago. Granted, it is going horribly wrong, but no man can turn water into wine. The key for the Bears franchise is to give Fox is enough time to build the team he wants. In the modern NFL, this is no given. Hopefully the Bears will realize how poorly firing a coach and his staff every two years has worked out for organizations like the Browns and Raiders in recent years.
Jaguars (I still like the offense) – This was the toughest team to come up with a positive for. Blake Bortles was supposed to lead this franchise back to relevance in 2016, but it has been more of the same. With Bortles, Alan Hearns, T.J. Yeldon, Julius Thomas, and Allen Robinson, there is still plenty of young talent on offense that excites me. Unlike the Bears though, I believe Jacksonville does not have the right coach. Ever since Gus Bradley got there, they have been plagued by incredibly slow starts. Since he took over in 2013, they are at the bottom of the league in first quarter points. The Jags always seem to make a push, but it is hard to win many games when you are down by multiple possessions in the first quarter every week. The players have shown flashes of talent while creating their trademark late game drama. Thus, I am not ready to blame them yet Bortles threw for over 30 touchdowns last year. Someone has to take the blame for all the good numbers and talent not resulting in wins. It will not be long before Bradley takes the fall. Interestingly, he plays in the London game this week. Head coaches have been fired after poor performances in the London game each of the last two years.
If you are a fan of one of these teams, I hope this has brightened your day.