By Stephen Stone
AFC North Champion Analyst (@SrStoneSports)
There are a bevy of reasons why teams don't want to start 0-2. Most notably, only three of the 46 Super Bowl winners started that way. And only 13 percent of 0-2 teams even make the playoffs. And in the AFC North, starting 0-2 is just about the worst thing you can do. In the history of the division, only one team - the 2002 Steelers - has an 0-2 team gone on to win the division.
This weight of history puts a lot of pressure on the Browns, Steelers and Bengals, who are all staring the dreaded 0-2 start in the face this Sunday.
Here are five things to consider in the AFC North this week:
1. If Ben Roethlisberger loses to the Jets on Sunday, it will be the first 0-2 start of his career.
Roethlisberger threw a big interception Sunday night which attributed to Pittsburgh’s week one loss. Now the Steelers face the Jets, coming off of one of the biggest wins of the opening weekend. Should Pittsburgh fall again, Big Ben will be 0-2. Considering the chances that 0-2 teams have at seeing any postseason success, Roethlisberger and his teammates are essentially in must win mode.
2. The Jets present the Steelers with a great chance to get their running game going.
Peyton Manning was fantastic and Roethlisberger threw a terrible pick six late in the game, but Pittsburgh was really done in by its inability to get the running game going. Through one week, the Steelers are 24th in rushing yards gained and 26th in yards per rush.
However, the Jets run defense was shredded on Sunday so they are unlikely to offer and serious resistance this week. New York gave up 195 rushing yards and 7.5 yards per carry, good for last place in the league in both categories. In fact, the 31st ranked team in yards per carry allowed only gave up 5.8 yards per attempt on Sunday, so no team’s ineptitude in stopping the run came close to the Jets.
3. The Baltimore Ravens and Philadlephia Eagles have met three times before... And the series is tied.
It's not every day you see that statistic. While the respective rosters in Baltimore and Philadelphia have endured drastic changes in recent years (besides Ray Lewis, who seemingly has been a part of Baltimore as long as Edgar Allen Poe) the inter-conference matchup hasn't been without its flare.
Last time they met, the Ravens crushed the Eagles 36-7 in week 12 of the 2008 season. Following that content, the two opponents mirrored each others subsequent success - going 4-1 to close out the regular season, winning their wild card matchup, beating each respective conferences top seed and inevitably losing in the conference championship game. In what could be a Super Bowl preview, it will be interesting to see if they both endure a similar fate after this season.
4. Philadelphia’s quarterback is in the worst interception stretch of his career.
We’re two years removed from Michael Vick’s magical comeback season. In 2010, Vick put up incredible numbers, throwing for 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions. The thought was that his time in prison had made Vick a more mature player who made smarter decisions with the football.
The sentiment changed last year when Vick threw a career high 14 interceptions. Things only got worse in week one when he threw four more interceptions to start the season. Things won’t get any better against Baltimore, the 2011 leaders in defensive passer rating. Ed Reed just became the NFL’s all-time leader in interception return yards last week and he has a great chance to add to that total on Sunday.
5. The Bengals have dominated the series against the Browns in recent years.
The general public tends to dismiss this contest as that “game between two other teams in the division.” While their collective success can’t hold a candle to that of Pittsburgh or Baltimore, the Bengals fans will probably take offense to the claim.
Since 2005, the Cincinnati have made the playoffs three times and won two divisional titles. Cleveland has not made the playoffs in that time. Meanwhile, The Bengals have dominated the series, winning 12 out of the last 15 games vs. The Browns. To live up to their expectations, the Bengals will have to continue to take care of business so that they avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.