While several teams have gotten off to impressive starts this season, the same can’t be said about everybody. Just about every team enters every season feeling overly optimistic about things, and there are always several teams that fall drastically short of their preseason expectations. It’s the nature of the game. The NFL playoffs see all sorts of turnover from year to year.
Early on this season, we have had plenty of surprises. Just about nobody expected the Kansas City Chiefs to start out 3-0, while the Tampa Bay Bucs’ 2-1 start also came out of nowhere. On the flip side, some teams are still searching for their first win after 3 weeks. The Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals are a combined 0-9 so far.
These teams entered the season with different expectations. Some believed the Texans could legitimately challenge the New England Patriots atop the AFC. The Raiders were expected to enjoy a bounce-back campaign in the first year since the team re-hired head coach Jon Gruden. This was likely going to be a transition year for the Cardinals under first-year head coach Steve Wilks.
The Browns went 0-16 last season, marking just the second campaign since the NFL schedule expanded to 16 games that a team has gone winless. The first time it happened was with the Lions at the end of the last decade. Do the Texans, Raiders or Cardinals have a chance at becoming the third team to earn a piece of dubious history this season?
MyBookie has odds posted for whether any of those teams will finish the season winless. Let’s start with the Raiders:
Will the Raiders Go 0-16?
- Yes +5000
- No -3300
The Raiders’ season got off to an inauspicious start when all-world pass-rusher Khalil Mack held out of training camp with the hopes of landing a lucrative contract extension. The holdout leaked into the Raiders’ preseason schedule with the two sides reportedly not coming close to an agreement. Mack was the most important player on the team’s defense by a mile, so he had plenty of leverage here. For the most part, players that hold out during training camp eventually get their new deal.
That didn’t happen here. Mack and the Raiders remained at odds, and at one point they broke off negotiations completely. Gruden and the team’s brass then took the bold step to trade him prior to the season. In exchange for Mack, the Raiders got first round draft picks in 2019 and 2020 as well as future third and sixth round picks from the Chicago Bears. The Bears then signed the player to the most lucrative deal in the history of the game for a defensive player. The deal was widely panned at the time, and it looks even worse for Oakland 3 games into the season.
Mack is thriving for a much-improved Chicago defense, while the Oakland defense suddenly lacks any identity whatsoever. The Raiders have 5 sacks as a team through 3 games, which is tied for 21st in the league. Not great! Gruden has repeatedly told the media that his team’s lack of pass rush has been a huge problem so far. Hmm…I wonder how they could have fixed that problem.
The Raiders’ losses so far have come against the Rams, Broncos and Dolphins, 3 teams with a combined record of 8-1 so far. Oakland nearly went into Denver and picked up a win, but the Broncos were able to mount a game-winning drive in the game’s final minutes to pull out a narrow 19-17 victory in Week 2. As of now, the Raiders are alone in the cellar of the AFC West.
The fact that they have been somewhat competitive should make them feel decent, however. West coast teams rarely travel across the country and get a positive result, so the loss to the Dolphins wasn’t a horrible one. Lots of teams are going to lose to the Rams this year, so that one wasn’t unexpected, either.
Oakland has an excellent chance at notching win No. 1 this week when the Cleveland Browns come to the Bay Area. Cleveland is obviously much improved, though, so it won’t be a cakewalk by any means. Other beatable opponents on the team’s upcoming schedule are the Seahawks, Colts, 49ers, Cardinals, Bengals and Chargers (twice). The notion of the Raiders losing all of those games seems inconceivable, so I feel like there’s almost a zero percent chance Oakland finishes this season without a win.
The Raiders do have some potential awkwardness on the horizon with this being the final year of their lease in Oakland, so crowd sizes may start to wane the later they get into the season. Even with diminished crowd support, I still think the Raiders have enough talent to win at least once this season. So, “no” at -3300 is the obvious play.
Will the Cardinals Go 0-16?
- Yes +800
- No -500
Now that the Bills have won a game, I’m just going to say it: the Cardinals look like the worst team in the NFL. Arizona was nearly able to pick up an upset victory over the Bears in Week 3, but it was not to be. The Cardinals are now 0-3 with an NFL-worst point differential of minus-54. Minus-54! Through 3 games! That’s almost incomprehensible.
The Cards were outscored 58-6 in their first two games against the Redskins and Rams. Again, losing to Los Angeles isn’t shameful. The fact that they lost 34-0, however, is. The Cardinals also let the Redskins walk into their own stadium and spank them in Week 1. The Redskins may be improved this season, but getting whipped by that team in your home opener is inexcusable.
I don’t know what to make of Wilks. New head coaches are typically granted some leeway, and maybe he eventually proves why the Cardinals hired him. However, in the loss to the Bears he made one of the more bizarre coaching decisions I can remember. The Cardinals signed veteran Sam Bradford this offseason to be their starter. Josh Rosen was drafted in the first round out of UCLA, as well. Rosen is clearly the team’s future franchise quarterback, while Bradford was simply serving as a placeholder.
Bradford and the offense struggled mightily through the first 2 games, and they struggled again this past Sunday against Chicago. Bradford lost a fumble with about 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter against the Bears. Wilks later said that he made the decision to put Rosen into the game the second Bradford lost the football. The ensuing Bears drive lasted nearly 7 minutes, however, so Rosen had only about 4 minutes left to try and engineer a long game-winning drive. I cannot recall an instance in which a team put in a rookie quarterback to try and stage a late drive to win a game like that in a situation in which the starter did not sustain an injury. Wilks just decided to throw Rosen into the fire with 4 minutes to play against a strong defense. As expected, Rosen struggled and threw an interception, and Arizona went on to lose again.
Rosen will now start the team’s upcoming clash against the Seahawks, so we’ll see how that goes. The Seahawks are a beatable opponent, but I wouldn’t pick the Cardinals to beat anybody at this point. The team also has winnable games against the 49ers (twice), Raiders, Chargers and Lions on the upcoming schedule.
Honestly, I would not be shocked if the Cardinals failed to win a game this season. That’s how bad they’ve looked for the most part. Then again, just about nobody expected the Bills to go into Minneapolis and crush the Vikings last weekend, but they did. The Bills were right there with the Cardinals through 2 weeks as the 2 worst teams in the league. Buffalo was able to get a result out of nowhere, so perhaps Arizona can do the same thing at some point.
I’d still side with “no” considering how few teams have actually gone a full 16-game schedule without a win, but if there is a team that won’t win a game this season, it’s the Cardinals. If you’re a risk-tolerant bettor, I don’t hate “yes” here at +800. There’s quite a bit of money to be made with odds like those.
Will the Texans Go 0-16?
- Yes +1100
- No -850
Full disclosure: I grew up in Houston. I adopted the Texans as my NFL team when they started playing back in 2002. I wouldn’t call myself a diehard fan in the least, but I follow them and generally hope they do well. They have been garbage for the majority of their existence, however, so my level of investment at this point is pretty minimal.
When I was doing some preseason NFL research, I saw an uncomfortable amount of buzz about the Texans. The team certainly has plenty of talent on the roster, and most analysts seemed to believe that a healthy Deshaun Watson would be enough to lift Houston to the top of the AFC South. Given the relative weakness of the conference, I suppose it wasn’t insane to suggest that the Texans could at least make a run to the AFC Championship Game before getting blasted by the Patriots on the doorstep of the Super Bowl.
The Texans faced probably the most daunting task in all of football in Week 1 with a trip to Foxboro on the schedule. They had a chance to make a statement by going up north and securing a win against the league’s current dynasty, but they looked terrible and wound up losing a game not nearly as competitive as the 27-20 final score would indicate. That’s fine. Most teams that venture into New England come away without a victory.
The real downturn came in Week 2 when the Texans traveled to Nashville to take on a Titans team playing without its starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota. Despite the fact that the Titans were starting Blaine Gabbert in his place, the Texans were unable to do anything on their way to a 20-17 defeat.
Then in Week 3, the Texans let a winless and hapless New York Giants team come into Houston and smack them around. Eli Manning of all people put in a good performance in a 27-22 New York victory. Now, the Texans are 0-3 and staring down the barrel at a road matchup in Indianapolis in Week 4. Another loss there wouldn’t be a surprising outcome.
The Texans’ saving grace is that they will face the Bills in a few weeks. Yes, the Bills did smoke the Vikings this past week, but I’m not going to take the bait. This is the same Buffalo team that got crushed by the Ravens and Chargers in their first 2 games of the season. The Texans also get to face the Bills in Houston, which should help.
There is just too much talent on this roster for the team to be this awful. Watson looked like the best young quarterback in the league last season before tearing his ACL. He’s gotten off to a sluggish start this year, but that was always to be expected after an injury like that. DeAndre Hopkins is a top-5 receiver in football. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are stud pass-rushers. The offensive line is a huge problem, but this team just can’t go winless.
Do I think the Texans rebound and make a push for the playoffs? At this point, no way. Do I think the Texans can win ONE football game? Yes. Someday, it will happen. So, “no” at -850 is your obvious bet.