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Best of the Worst

Update [2007-9-21 10:45:38 by VanRam]:This is what I promised yesterday, which was probably a little ambitious all things considered. I started to get a little carried away with the statistical analysis, but upon review I think the DVOA ranks really make the point well themselves.

A look at the standings, besides being a bummer for Rams fans, reveals a surprising number of 0-2 teams, including some names NOBODY thought would be winless two games into the season.

Take a look at the list.

AFC
Bills
Chiefs
Dolphins
Jets
Raiders

NFC
Eagles
Falcons
Giants
Rams
Saints

Almost a third of the league is winless, and while that's expected for some of those teams, teams like the Rams, Eagles, and the Saints that comes as something of a surprise and a huge disappointment for lots of fans that carried high expectations in the season.

Immediately upon seeing this list and those names, I wondered who the best 0-2 team is and are there any that have a chance to turn things around.

Going team by team, let's look at their overall ranks on offense and defense, using Football Outsiders DVOA numbers. (That seemed far less arbitrary - because it takes into account all factors and adjusts for quality of opponents - rather than the typical ranking system of just looking at total yards, yards per game or points scored without considering other factors.) The number appearing after DVOA is the team's rank on the respective DVOA list.

Starting with the NFC:

Eagles
Offensive DVOA: -8.1%, 21
Defensive DVOA: -9.7%, 12

Falcons
Offense: -20.0%, 24
Defense: 9.2%, 24

Giants
Offense: 13.1%, 8
Defense: 56.7%, 32

Rams
Offense: -4.4%, 18
Defense: -0.9%, 18

Saints
Offense: -23.0%, 26
Defense: 47.3%, 31

And now the AFC:
BIlls
Offense: -32.4%, 31
Defense: 28.8%, 28

Chiefs
Offense: -31.4%, 30
Defense: -14.4%, 8

Dolphins
Offense: -13.4%, 22
Defense: 11.3%, 25

Jets
Offense: -25.8%, 27
Defense: 39.9%, 30

Raiders
Offense: -22.4%, 25
Defense: 19.1%, 27

Now, this probably isn't the best way to consider who's the best of the worst, but judging by their overall performance in each category and the corresponding rank, the Rams look to be the best of the bunch. Not a surprise I'm sure for Rams fans. The Rams' overall rank in each category was greatly helped in last week's "give the devil his due" loss to the 49ers where our defense kept them from scoring more than 20 points or racking up much in the way of yards and our offense put up nice numbers in the passing game, just not on the score board.

These numbers are a bitter reminder than some dumb mistakes last week have more to do with the Rams being 0-2 as opposed to 1-1 than last week's opponent. You hear it time and time again: we beat ourselves.

This week's opponent, Tampa Bay, handily whipped the 0-2 Saints last week, by a score of 31-14. The Saints rank among the league's worst in offense (a surprise considering their personnel) and defense (not a surprise at all considering a preseason article comparing them to the Rams of 2000), a good match up for a middling quality team like TB.

Through the DVOA lens, Tampa Bay ranks 15th on offense, 5.1% DVOA, and 14th on defense, -5.3% DVOA. After their week one 20-6 loss to Seattle, the Bucs ranked 23rd in both categories. This is by far the Rams' most winnable game of the first quarter of the season.

Did we mention it's a must win?

Just a few quick thoughts on the rest of the 0-2 pack. Several of those teams mirror the Rams offensive/defensive imbalance. The Giants have a weak secondary and a new defensive coordinator whose aggressive schemes depend on a good secondary; combined with the number of injuries they've dealt with on that side of the ball, it's not a huge shock that they rank 32nd overall, especially after games against the Cowboys and refreshed Packers.

The Eagles are a team that really surprised me at 0-2. They have an elite pass defense, but have no passing game on offense, relying mostly on Westbrook. The big story with the Eagles has been McNabb, especially in light of his comments on HBO recently. Right or wrong, he's taking the heat for their offensive failures. Over at Bleeding Green Nation, SBN's Eagles' site, Rams fans will find some familiar refrain criticizing the play calling.

As for the other teams, I'm not too surprised at an 0-2 record. The Bills offense was supposed to be better this season, and fans seem to be unhappy with the play calling there too and the media has gone after J. P. Losman.

Living somewhere in between Chiefs and Rams country, I get my fair share of Chiefs news in the local fish wrap (not to mention from a die hard Chiefs fan father-in-law). With that piecemeal knowledge of the other MO football team, I have to say I'm a little surprised to see their defense ranked so high. Part of that probably comes from playing an embarrassingly ineffective Chicago offense last week. For the KC offense, there's lots of blame to go around, just ask Tony Gonzalez. They even have the beginnings of a QB controversy, per Arrowhead Pride.

There's not really any comfort to be found in being the league's best winless team. Instead, it points to an underachieving team that desperately needs to win this week to maintain any kind of postseason hopes, not to mention keep the legions of disgruntled St. Louis sports fans engaged.