Charles McDonald: Some of NFL's 0-3 teams still have chance due to expanded playoffs

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Six teams have gotten off to an 0-3 start this season, but not all of these winless teams have the same outlook.

It’ll be hard for any of these teams to make the playoffs, but there are more chances for teams that stumble out of the gate to get into the playoffs this year since there will be seven teams making the postseason in each conference instead of six.

From least likely to make the playoffs to most likely, here’s how the 0-3 teams might fare:

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New York Jets

It’s not happening.

The Jets don’t have the personnel or the coaching prowess to get past New England and Buffalo this year. The only competition they have is with the Dolphins for third place in the division.

The biggest question for Jets fans right now is whether or not Trevor Lawrence will be donning the Gotham Green in MetLife Stadium next season.

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New York Giants

The Giants don’t have a great chance at making the playoffs, but there are still things for Giants fans to be hopeful about it.

With a little optimism and positive thinking, the Giants can be viewed as a team that has the shell set up for future success. Daniel Jones had his moments as a rookie, Andrew Thomas has the talent to develop into a top-flight left tackle and the defense has legitimate high level talent with players like Dexter Lawrence and James Bradberry.

Right now, the biggest question for the Giants is how far their coaching can take them, especially as they attempt to generate an offense without superstar running back Saquon Barkley.

So far, the Giants coaching staff has given them mixed results. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham did a solid job until Kyle Shanahan dunked on him in the second half of their game against the 49ers. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has gotten off to a brutal start with the Giants, ranking 27th in yards per play through three weeks.

The injuries to Barkley and Sterling Shepard have undoubtedly made life difficult for Garrett and the Giants, but there is still a lack of creativity that’s stunting their offensive growth.

Even without Barkley, the Giants have enough players to avoid being one of the worst offenses in the league. That’s an indictment on Garrett.

The Giants have a higher level of play in them that they haven’t reached.

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Denver Broncos

Before injuries hit, the Broncos were set up to be a fun, but incomplete team this year.

Second-year quarterback Drew Lock has elite throwing tools and was ready to throw to a group of explosive playmakers, including Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and rookie first-round pick Jerry Jeudy.

Unfortunately, Lock is dealing with a shoulder injury and Sutton was lost for the year with a torn ACL. That makes Denver’s 0-3 record a bit easier to swallow. Future Hall of Fame pass rusher Von Miller was lost for the season during training camp and Bradley Chubb is still working his way back from missing all but four games during the 2019 season.

The Broncos just have a bad case of the injury bug this year.

Even if everyone was healthy, making the playoffs would still be difficult considering that the Broncos have to play two games against Patrick Mahomes every season and they certainly aren’t better than the Chiefs.

The start to the Broncos season has been unfortunate, but they can chalk a significant portion of their 0-3 start up to injuries. This is still a team to pay attention to and be intrigued by when they get back to full strength.

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Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings still have the shell of a good team, but they are missing a lot of substance.

Through three games, Kirk Cousins has been woefully inconsistent. However, against the Tennessee Titans last week, running back Dalvin Cook finally had the big game Minnesota was been waiting for since they paid him.

Minnesota feels like a team that’s going through a bit of a transition year in 2020, which isn’t ideal considering they just gave Cousins an extension earlier this season.

The Vikings can still make the playoffs, but they’ll need the Bears to come back to Earth and stop squeezing out fluky wins. Chicago has a win over Detroit in which rookie running back D’Andre Swift dropped a wide open, potential game-winning touchdown, as well as a last-second victory over the Falcons on Sunday.

Minnesota can catch up and make themselves a player in the NFC North again, but the Vikings need to start stacking wins immediately.

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Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have the talent to be a playoff team, but they’ve shot themselves in the foot repeatedly to start the season.

They’ve blown double-digit, fourth-quarter leads in back to back weeks, to the Bears and Cowboys. This team should be 2-1, but they’re the Falcons and this is kind of their identity under head coach Dan Quinn.

Just last year the Falcons went 6-2 to close their season after starting 1-7. This team has the top tier talent to rip off wins against anyone, but they’re so consistently discombobulated that it’s difficult to move forward.

Chasing the Buccaneers and Saints is going to be a difficult challenge for the Falcons, but Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are a good enough offensive trio to beat just about anyone.

If they can hit their hot streak now instead of halfway through the season, this season is salvageable for the Falcons. Unfortunately, like every other team on this list, they’ve put themselves in the unenviable position of needing to be damn near perfect throughout the rest of the way.

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Houston Texans

The Texans are a bit like the Falcons in that their 0-3 record might not be completely indicative of how they’ve played the first few weeks.

Houston should probably be 1-2. They got blasted by the Chiefs and the Ravens to start the season and there really isn’t too much shame in that. The Texans should have beat the Steelers, but blew a second-half lead after getting off to a hot start.

Part of why the Texans have the best chance to make the playoffs out of these winless teams is because they have the best quarterback of the six. Deshaun Watson is a star and has still shown off supreme playmaking ability without the help of Deandre Hopkins, who is now with the Cardinals.

Houston can be good enough to battle Tennessee and Indianapolis for the division crown as long as they have No. 4 behind center.

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