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Time To Win: Picking Winners from the Winless

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning will look to lead the Giants to a first win.

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning will look to lead the Giants to a first win on Sunday.

Eight NFL teams remain winless heading into Sunday’s Week 3 action. Somewhat surprisingly, the majority of these reside within the NFC, which on paper at least looks like the stronger conference this year.

From the NFC, the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins will all take to the field Sunday in search of their first win of the season.

From the AFC, the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers will look to do the same.

While the list of winless AFC sides features a couple of repeat offenders (only Pittsburgh comes as a surprise), the NFC list is less predictable. The NFC South duo of Carolina and Tampa Bay might not surprise most of us but the inclusion of the NFC East pairing of the Giants and Redskins and Minnesota, a team that made the playoffs a year ago, is enough to take you back.

We heard all last week how unlikely it is for a team starting the year 0-2 to advance to the postseason. That challenge is even greater, if not impossible, given a 0-3 start. Regardless of how unexpected these winless records are then, all face a very simply mission this week; it’s time to win.

BettingSports.com takes a look at how each of the NFC teams is likely to fair this week, picking out who will finally have the chance to celebrate and who will be looking down the barrel of that dreaded 0-3 start.

We start in the nation’s capital.

Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins (matchup)

History favors Griffin and the Redskins.

History favors Griffin and the Redskins.

In all fairness, the Washington Redskins (0-2, 0-1 home) owe their winless record more to the scheduling gods than any kind of ineptitude. First the DC side was made a sacrificial lamb to the Philadelphia Eagles’ exhausting offense. Then the side was pummeled on the road by a Green Bay Packers side that currently leads the league in offensive yards and is second in scoring.

The good news is that the Redskins return home this week for what looks to be a winnable game. The even better news is that the Detroit Lions (1-1, 0-1 road) have beaten the Redskins on the road just twice in history. The best news yet is that those two wins came in 1933 and 1935 respectively. Now the unbelievable news; the Redskins were based in Boston for those games, meaning the Lions have never won in Washington.

You might not consider history, especially ancient history, to be all that important when laying money down, but when a team hasn’t won on the road against another team in 78 years, and has lost 21 straight games in the process, it’s time to stand up and pay attention.

Verdict: Washington wins. Records were made to be broken but the Lions aren’t history makers just yet.

New York Giants at Carolina Panthers (matchup)

Cam Newton and the Panthers need a win.

Cam Newton and the Panthers need a win.

The good news here is that someone’s breaking their winless streak.*

The New York Giants (0-2, 0-1 road), like their division counterparts in Washington, have the schedule makers to blame for a winless start, to a degree. After losing a close divisional game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, the Giants were manhandled by a Denver Broncos team that is now the No. 1 choice with bookmakers to win Super Bowl XLVIII.

Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers (0-2, 0-1 home) played the Seattle Seahawks tight in Week 1, something few expected. That loss was commendable; throwing away a 23-17 lead with 1:38 left in the game last week against the Buffalo Bills was not.

The Giants have had the better of the head-to-head in recent years, winning two straight and four of the last five. The G-Men also hold a 2-1 record in Charlotte, one of the reasons the team opens as a very narrow favorite on Sunday.

If Carolina is unsuccessful, head coach Ron Rivera – who was assigned -140 odds of not being fired before Week 17 by Bovada this week – may find his seat heating up that much more.

*Of course, the dreaded tie could prove this writer wrong, but the odds are at least in favor of someone going home with a win.

Verdict: New York wins. The Giants remain a more balanced and better coached side than the Panthers.

Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings (matchup)

Adrian Peterson will look to run all over the Browns.

Adrian Peterson will look to run all over the Browns.

In another battle of the winless, the Minnesota Vikings (0-2, 0-0 home) will look to take advantage of a Cleveland Browns (0-0, 0-1 road) team that may have already thrown in the towel.

The Browns traded second-year running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday, stockpiling a first round pick in the process. Former Browns President Mike Holmgrem was as ecstatic as the Cleveland faithful about the move. The Browns replace Richardson with Willis McGahee, who played in Denver last season.

While the Browns will assuredly have a fight on their hands to win the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft (Jacksonville surely holds all the cards), the Vikings should be able to take advantage of a huge opportunity on Sunday, especially at home.

Minnesota can ill afford to trip up against the Browns. Following the game, the Vikings will make the 4,000-mile trip to London for the first of this year’s two NFL International Series Games at Wembley Stadium. Arriving 0-3 is not exactly part of the plan.

As an aside, the last thing the NFL brass wants to see are the Vikings losing to the Browns. The prospect of a 0-3 Vikings meeting a 0-3 Steelers (which could happen) will take the gleam off that marquee game.

Verdict: Minnesota wins. Cleveland tanks it from here on out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots (matchup)

Can Greg Schiano keep his team together?

Can Greg Schiano keep his team together?

Finally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2, 0-1 road) will look to end their winless street with a trip to Foxborough, Mass., to take on the New England Patriots (2-0, 1-0 home).

On the surface, there’s little hope for the Buccaneers. The side hasn’t won in New England since 2000, has lost two straight to the Patriots, and may or may not be (depending on your sources) be in internal turmoil. Notch this one up as big win for New England then. But hold on.

The Patriots are hardly the offensive juggernaut that we’ve become used to. With Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola limited in practice this week, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Tom Brady will have any receiving threats. That very problem has left the Patriots struggling to wins over the Bills and New York Jets so far this season. It also means Tampa Bay could be in with a shot.

Of course, for the Buccaneers to have any success on Sunday, there needs be some cohesiveness to proceedings. If head coach Greg Schiano is getting along with Darrelle Revis and Josh Freeman – which it has been suggested he is not – then the team could score a scalp. Sadly, the antics surrounding the team are looking more and more like those that have plagued the Jets in recent years. And we know how the Jets have fared.

Verdict: Tampa Bay loses. But it’s a close one.

* * * * *

If you’re wondering about the rest of the AFC’s winless teams, BettingSports.com doesn’t like Jacksonville’s chances in Seattle (2-0, 1-0 home). Pittsburgh (0-2, 0-1 home) meanwhile will find it tough to take a win from the Chicago Bears (2-0, 1-0 road) at Heinz Field, but there is hope there. We’d take the Bears though.

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