The New York Giants were not expected to be competitive in 2022, but a surprising 2-0 start has made them one of the league's undefeated teams. They're playing better on both sides of the ball, backed by a new coaching staff led by Brian Daboll and his aggressive mentality. Kick a game-tying extra point against Tennessee? Run on third-and-long and punt to give Carolina one more drive? No thank you. The Giants play to win.
So why are the Giants only 18th in the Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings? It would be understandable if these ratings included prior data; that's part of why the Giants are so low in the ESPN FPI ratings, for example. But the DVOA ratings are only based on the first two games, and they don't even include opponent adjustments this early in the season, so it isn't an issue of the Giants getting dinged for beating a bad Carolina team and a declining Tennessee squad.
It turns out the Giants have been somewhat lucky in escaping with two close wins to start the season. When we drill down to their play-by-play performance with DVOA, we find that the Giants are one of the weakest 2-0 teams we've ever measured, going back to 1981.
Let's take a look at the worst 2-0 starts here and see how these teams compare to this year's G-Men.
This is not a bad list to be on, certainly. First of all, advanced metrics may be good for predicting the future but only the wins and losses count in the standings. The "worst 2-0 teams" can be very happy about starting 2-0.
Second, many of these teams played better football over the rest of the season. Sometimes, a team with a surprising 2-0 start will see its luck regress and start losing games. Other times, these teams have seen their performance improve so they are playing better -- and they are fortunate to have two wins already banked. Two of the teams described below even made it to the Super Bowl! On the other hand, most of the teams that got better after Week 2 were coming off better prior seasons than this year's Giants -- and Tom Brady isn't walking through that door.
You'll notice a lot of repeating patterns when we talk about the "worst 2-0 starts." Almost all of the games we'll talk about were decided by one score. Fumble recovery luck comes up a lot, as do missed field goals and long final drives by opponents that didn't quite get points on the board.
Here's a look at the 12 worst 2-0 starts since 1981 by DVOA.
12. 2007 San Francisco 49ers (minus-6.4%)
How it started: The 49ers opened the season with the late Monday night doubleheader game at home against the Cardinals. Both offenses were horrible, with Arizona's Matt Leinart throwing for just 102 yards while San Francisco's Alex Smith threw for just 126. The 49ers took the lead with just 22 seconds left on an end around from Arnaz Battle, then picked off a deep desperation throw from Leinart to close it out and win 20-17.
Week 2, Smith again had just 126 passing yards but Frank Gore rushed for 81 and two touchdowns in 20 carries. The 49ers were down 16-14 when Dante Hall muffed a punt for the Rams, and the 49ers recovered on the Rams 26. San Francisco's drive went all of four yards, but they took a 17-16 lead on a Joe Nedney field goal with 3:28 left. Then Jeff Wilkins missed a 56-yard attempt for the Rams with 1:04 left. That's two wins by four points.
How it finished: The 49ers lost their next eight games in a row. They finished the year 5-11 and dead last in DVOA. Four different quarterbacks started games for them. It was bad.
11. 1996 Buffalo Bills (minus-7.8%)
How it started: First, the Bills went to New Jersey and beat the Giants 23-20 in overtime. The Bills fumbled five times, but the Giants could only recover one of those fumbles. The next week, the Bills came home to beat the Patriots 17-10. The usually reliable Jim Kelly threw three picks, and the Bills averaged just 2.2 yards per carry on the ground, but the Patriots couldn't get any offense going either. The Bills benefited from good luck on special teams when Patriots' new kicker Adam Vinatieri missed three field goals from 25, 45 and 47 yards. Buffalo let the Patriots' final drive go 78 yards to the Buffalo 2-yard line, but the Patriots couldn't get the ball in the end zone on three tries.
The Bills were eighth in defensive DVOA after two weeks but 18th on offense and 27th on special teams.
How it finished: The Bills' special teams recovered and ended the season fifth in the league, but their offense collapsed. Kelly struggled all year with a hamstring injury, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and missing three starts at midseason. The Bills finished the year 26th in offensive DVOA.
And yet the Bills kept winning games against an easy schedule. Their luck on special teams continued all season, as no team saw its opponents lose more expected value from missing field goals. (Opponents were 23-of-36, although three of those were blocked by the Bills.) The Bills finished the year 10-6 and made the playoffs, but were upset at home by upstart Jacksonville in the wild-card round.