- Associated Press - Monday, September 19, 2011

Starting off 0-2 isn’t necessarily an indication of a doomed season in the NFL.

This year, looking at the way the Colts, Chiefs and Seahawks have lost both games, it’s difficult to imagine any of those 2010 division winners making a turnaround.

Comebacks from slow starts aren’t unusual in pro football, with 22 teams since 1990 making the playoffs after beginning 0-2. While no team lost its first two and made the postseason in 2009 or 2010, back in 2007, the Giants began their season 0-2. All they did was win the Super Bowl.

Comebacks with key players injured (Peyton Manning and Gary Brackett in Indianapolis, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry in Kansas City) or with uncertainty at nearly every position (the Seahawks’ roster seems to change hourly) border on impossible.

Heading into Monday night’s game in which either the Rams or Giants would fall to 0-2, six others teams are winless. Carolina, thanks to the dynamic early performances by Cam Newton, actually has been impressive. Minnesota has blown a pair of leads late in its losses.

But Indy, KC, Seattle and Miami have looked hopeless, with the Dolphins losing twice at home, dropping their recent record in Sun Life Stadium to 1-11. They have opened 0-2 in five of the last six seasons.

Most disappointing and, in some ways, most embarrassing, is what has happened to the Colts. Every team in every sport would struggle without its best player, particularly when that player is on Manning’s level and previously has been indestructible. His neck surgery in May and subsequent complications have him sidelined indefinitely. They also have the Colts more likely to be in the Andrew Luck derby for next year’s draft than contending in the AFC South they usually dominate.

“There’s 16 rounds and we lost two of them,” said defensive end Dwight Freeney, whose unit has not bailed out an anemic offense. “We just have to get it together and get some things together.”

Perhaps. Without Manning, though, this team is adrift. Lots of blame has been placed on Kerry Collins, who was placed in an untenable situation coming in so late in the preseason _ after being retired _ and trying to replace a four-time MVP around whom everything offensive is built in Indy. But Freeney, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark and Brackett, other leaders in Indy, have not stepped up.

“We don’t have much time left,” Wayne said, contradicting Freeney and making you wonder what the mindset is on the Colts. “We’ve got to figure it out fast, even though it’s just the second game. We have to figure out a way to win the close ones. I feel like that’s what it’s going to be from here on out.”

A close game might be a moral victory for Indianapolis. It certainly would be for Kansas City.

The Chiefs have been outscored 89-10, scoring the fewest points and yielding the most. Their psyches are bruised and, even worse, so is their lineup. AFC West winners a year ago, they look more like AFC worst this season.

“You can’t do certain things and win in the NFL, or even have a chance to win. We once again did a bunch of those things,” coach Todd Haley said, referring in great part to nine turnovers; last year, the Chiefs were a plus-9 in turnover differential and had a total of 14 giveaways.

“Once again, I will take responsibility for the performance of our team, and we have to make, clearly, a bunch of changes here in what we’re doing.”

Change has been all too frequent in Seattle, where the 2010 division title brings no comfort because the Seahawks earned it with a 7-9 record. Getting to seven wins this year will take all of Pete Carroll’s coaching skills.

Seattle can’t run the ball, is missing its best deep threat in injured Sidney Rice, and hasn’t forced a turnover. Most of its key players are newcomers, and with team leaders Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu gone, finding the right path could be problematic all season.

The Dolphins don’t come off a division championship or even a winning record, and slow starts are a way of life in South Florida. What dooms Miami most, perhaps, is where it resides: in the AFC East, where the other three members are 2-0.

Remember, too, that Dolphins ownership courted Jim Harbaugh to become coach before he left Stanford for the 49ers _ even while Tony Sparano was still on the job. Don’t think the players fail to notice that display of lack of faith, even if Sparano got a contract extension after that debacle played out.

“It’s us,” said Jason Taylor, whose return to Miami after a season each with the Redskins and the Jets has quickly soured. “It’s not the coaches. It’s not ownership. It’s not the fans. It’s the players in this room that are doing dumb things and getting in our own way.

“If you can’t fix them, you’ve got to replace them. I’m not advocating anybody losing their job, but this is a very serious business, and it needs to be taken seriously, and I’m not sure everyone understands the magnitude of what we’re trying to do here. If you can’t get it, get out of the way and we’ll get somebody else who will.”

Might already be too late.

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