Injuries, schedule sink K.C.
Being winless three weeks into the season is bad enough. Being winless after winning a division title the year before is nearly unforgivable.
That is where the Kansas City Chiefs sit today after losing to Buffalo, Detroit and San Diego. Of the five oh-fer teams, Kansas City's situation is the most dire because the team and its fans expected so much more.
Instead of building on their 10-6 season of a year ago, the Chiefs have regressed. Given general manager Scott Pioli's conservative approach to free agency and the loss of three starters to season-ending knee injuries already, it is unlikely that their outlook is going to change. Jamaal Charles, the NFL's second-leading rusher in 2010 with 1,467 yards, isn't coming back. Neither are tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry.
Those losses would be tough for any team to overcome, but they are particularly tough for the Chiefs, who lack depth and need upgrades across the board. Their biggest free-agent pickup of the offseason was wide receiver Steve Breaston, who has six catches in three games. They are so thin at receiver that Keary Colbert is on the roster after spending time coaching tight ends at his alma mater, Southern California. Quarterback Matt Cassel has the lowest average for yards per attempt of any quarterback in the league, and his 428 passing yards in three games is second only to Jacksonville's Luke McCown, who was benched after Week 2.
And that schedule? It is getting easier for the next few weeks with the winless Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts up next followed by a bye. But mid-November to mid-December looks like this: at New England, Pittsburgh, at Chicago, at the New York Jets and Green Bay at home. Given how the Chiefs have struggled to move the ball, there is not a winnable game in that bunch.
After failing to get a first down in the first half against San Diego on Sunday, Kansas City rallied to pull within 20-17. There were signs of life, signs that were squelched when Cassel threw a pick on a screen pass in the final minute. It was emblematic of their season, one that doesn't look likely to finish anywhere close to where 2010 did.
Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
Uncertainty equals crisis in Miami
Of the 0-3 teams, the Miami Dolphins have the biggest worries. The problem goes beyond the coaching.
It's one thing for a Kansas City Chiefs to have an 0-3 start, but at least they are coming off a 10-win playoff season and the roster is being built by general manager Scott Pioli. As bad as things are for the Indianapolis Colts, they still can look forward to the return of Peyton Manning at some point. The Rams may be troubled, but they have Sam Bradford at quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings can look forward to Christian Ponder at some point.
The Dolphins are in the worst situation because no one can figure their direction at quarterback. This is a quarterback-driven league and Chad Henne is in the last year of a four-year contract. You get the idea the team will be looking for someone else next year. Adding to the problem is that head coach Tony Sparano is now on the hot seat after the team's poor start.
Of the five 0-3 teams, the Dolphins are the only one with future uncertainty for the head coach and the quarterback. That creates the crisis.
What's also troubling is the direction of the offense on the field. The Dolphins can't figure out if they want to be a shotgun passing team or a grind-it-out running attack. What's been positive is that the Dolphins can move the ball using both styles, but three weeks into the season, they have a clear identity crisis on offense.
Henne looks better in the shotgun throwing the ball out of spread sets and using the versatility of Reggie Bush in the passing game. Rookie Daniel Thomas looks good running behind a solid offensive line. But where the uncertain personality affects the Dolphins the most is in the red zone. Henne has a hard time linking up with his receivers near the goal line and the coaching staff can't figure out if it wants to spread the field with receivers or go big and power the ball.
Another problem is how the fans are getting turned off by the product on the field.
For survival, the coaching staff and the quarterback need to win to keep their jobs past this season.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.