Can You Make the Playoffs After an 0-2 Start in NFL?

Can You Make the Playoffs After an 0-2 Start in NFL?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Two games into the NFL’s 2023 campaign, the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves already in a fight for their playoff lives after an 0-2  start.  The good news for Cincinnati and Ohio sports betting fans is that the Bengals have shown themselves to be more than capable when backed into a corner.

Utilizing, – your source for Ohio sportsbook promos - looked at how teams since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger ended up the rest of the season after an 0-2 start. There have been 406 teams that fall into that category. Here is what we found out:

Performance of NFL Teams Starting 0-2

Result # of Teams Percentage
Winning Season 57 14.0%
Making the Playoffs 399.6%
Making the Super Bowl 4 1.0%
Winning the Super Bowl 3 0.7%


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Bengals Have Been Here Before

Last season, the Bengals were one of five teams to start 0-2. Not only were they the only team to qualify for the playoffs but they advanced to the AFC Championship game, where they were edged by Super Bowl champion Kansas City. During the regular season in 2022, the Bengals were a pedestrian 4-4 before reeling off eight consecutive wins to capture the AFC North title.

And the season before, the Bengals were a mediocre 5-4 headed into their Bye week but sprinted to a 10-7 finish, which was good enough for first place in the AFC North.  The Bengals then made it to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 23-20.

This season, the Bengals’ Super Bowl odds and resiliency will be tested again, but even more so.

Their two losses are both within their division, to Cleveland in Week 1 and to Baltimore the past Sunday, which puts them at a severe disadvantage in tie-breaker scenarios. On top of that, in the home loss to the Ravens, Bengals star quarterback Joe Burrow aggravated the calf injury he’s been dealing with since training camp.

Along with all that, Burrow has hardly been putting up Pro Bowl numbers this season with a total of 304 passing yards, two TD passes and an interception in two game. He did, however, play better in the second half of the 27-24 loss to Baltimore.

Still, there’s the injury.

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What's Next for Bengals?

Coming up is a Monday Night home game against the Los Angeles Rams and then an away game against Tennessee.

In terms of betting odds, the Bengals, one of the preseason favorites to advance deep into the playoffs, have been taken down a few pegs by the oddsmakers.

At the start of the season, Cincinnati was +850 to win the Super Bowl at BetMGM Ohio.  Only the Chiefs had lower odds at +800.

After Sunday’s defeat to the Ravens, the Bengals are now at +1800 to win the Super Bowl at BetMGM.  Other major sportsbooks have the Bengals at the same +1800, with the exception of Caesars Sportsbook Ohio, which has them at +1600.

BetMGM has the defending champion Chiefs (1-1) and San Francisco (2-0) at +600 to win the Super Bowl, and Philadelphia and Dallas, both 2-0, at +800.

With a 0-2 start, the Bengals have a tough road to travel to the playoffs but not without precedent. Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, 406 teams have started 0-2. Of that number, 57 teams (14%) went on to have winning seasons after starting 0-2, and 39 of those (9.6%) made the playoffs. However, advancing in the postseason is far more difficult as only four of those teams (1%) went on to make the Super Bowl, with three of them (0.7%) actually winning it.

Last year’s Bengals team is one of the stellar 0-2 starters with its 12-4 finish and the run to the AFC Championship game.

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How Can the Bengals Do It Again?

Regarding the Bengals’ chances of replicating their 2021 and 2022 seasons – in which they came back in the second half the season and marched through the playoffs to arrive at the threshold of a Super Bowl title - that will be far more difficult in 2023 and greater responsibility will fall on the Cincinnati coaching staff.

Burrow – assuming he keeps playing – will be without his customary mobility.

The reality of the defeat to the Ravens is that despite the late-game comeback by the Bengals, Baltimore was without two starting defensive backs.  

In the immediate future, the Bengals’ game plan and play-calling will have to emphasize getting the ball out of Burrow’s hands quickly and establishing the running game. Otherwise, opposing defenses will tee-off on the quarterback, who will be a sitting duck.

And even when all seems lost after a horrible season, there’s always the faint hope inspired by the 1992 San Diego Chargers. That season, San Diego started 0-4 but rallied to win the AFC West at 11-5. They even won their first playoff game before losing to Miami. 

It’s not much but it might be all that Cincinnati has to cling to if it doesn’t win a game soon. Stay close to to monitor the progress of the Bengals and all of Ohio’s sports teams, as well as for Ohio sportsbook promo codes.

Staff writer Lou Monaco contributed to this report.



Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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