It’s odd to declare a game a “must win” so early in the NFL season, but entering a week three matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders (0-2) on Sunday, that’s exactly where the Tennessee Titans (0-2) find themselves.

After losing to the Giants on a missed game-winning field goal attempt, and getting blown out in Buffalo, the Titans are staring down the barrel of an 0-3 record, taking on a talented and just as desperate Raiders team.

NFL history would suggest that both of these teams, sitting at 0-2, are in a “must-win” situation if they want a realistic chance at making the playoffs.

Only six (6) out of 187 NFL teams since 1980 to start 0-3 have managed to see make the post-season:

  • 1981 New York Jets
  • 1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 1992 San Diego Chargers
  • 1995 Detroit Lions
  • 1998 Buffalo Bills
  • 2018 Houston Texans

The 2018 Houston Texans are the only team of the last 24 years to start 0-3 and make the playoffs, winning the AFC South with an 11-5 record in 2018. So it is possible.

With how poorly the AFC South has performed to open the season, that could be the case again in 2022.

The question is….is this really a must-win game? Even if the Titans fall to the Raiders on Sunday, is the AFC South weak enough to allow a team to sneak in with a near .500 record?

The division is a pathetic 1-5-2 through two weeks. The undoubted worst division in football.

While it may be a realistic expectation that 8-9 could win the AFC South, and the division will likely be determined by division matchups, nobody can afford to fall behind early.

I’m still listening to the history. The Titans need to win on Sunday if they want a realistic chance of playing football into January.

0-3 puts you behind in the standings, but it also kills your morale. The Titans have a lot of young players on their roster, all looking to get their confidence up and establish a winning culture.

There is also a stable of veterans that still may have a bitter taste in their mouth from how their 2021 season ended at Nissan Stadium.

That taste doesn’t go away by starting 0-3.

A win over the Raiders would not only help the Titans stay in the mix, it would also give the team momentum heading into a game with the division rival Colts, and may be all they need to start turning the season around.

Image via George Walker IV / Tennessean.com-USA TODAY NETWORK