You see it every season.
Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four clubs made the playoffs that were not in the postseason the previous year.
Entering Week 4 of the NFL 2013 season, seven NFL teams remain undefeated, including four clubs that failed to qualify for the 2012 playoffs -- Chicago, Kansas City, Miami and New Orleans.
While no guarantee, wins early in the season lay a foundation for future success -- 75.4 percent of teams (86 of 114) that started 3-0 since 1990 made the playoffs.
In the AFC, the turnaround efforts by the Chiefs (2-14 in 2012) and Dolphins (7-9) have been impressive.
Last Thursday night, Kansas City defeated Philadelphia 26-16 to remain undefeated, becoming the fifth team in NFL history to start a season 3-0 after losing 14 or more games the previous season.
The teams to start 3-0 after finishing the previous season with 14+ losses:
|Team||Year||Previous Season Record||Undefeated Record||Final Record|
|Source: NFL * Active streak|
"We try to get better every day," says Chiefs safety Eric Berry. "We're trying to take this team to the top. We're just going to keep putting in the work, day in and day out."
Kansas City hosts the winless New York Giants in Week 4 and aims to become the second team in NFL history to start a season 4-0 after finishing the previous season with at least 14 losses. Only the 1980 Detroit Lions have accomplished the feat.
One key factor for the club has been playing mistake-free football. Through Week 3, Kansas City owns the best turnover ratio (+9) in the NFL. The Chiefs are one of two teams yet to commit a turnover in 2013 (Tennessee) and can tie the 1995 St. Louis Rams (four games) for the longest streak without a turnover to begin a season in NFL history.
"It is hard to win games in the National Football League," says Kansas City head coach ANDY REID. "We still have a lot of season left. There is no time to relax on what you have done, you just have to continue to build and get better."
Miami is off to its first 3-0 start since 2002, winning back-to-back games against 2012 playoff participants in the past two weeks. The Dolphins earned a 24-20 road victory against Indianapolis in Week 2 and followed with a 27-23 win at home against Atlanta in Week 3.
"We have a special team, a team with a lot of talent," says Miami wide receiver BRIAN HARTLINE. "We're going to continue to improve. The sky's the limit."
Miami has relied heavily on its opportunistic defense, which ranks second in the AFC with five interceptions, and the standout play of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who orchestrated the fourth game-winning fourth-quarter drive of his career against the Falcons.
With the Dolphins trailing 23-20 with 4:46 remaining, Tannehill led Miami on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to rookie tight end Dion Sims with 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter to seal the Dolphins' victory.
"Expectations will continue to rise," says Hartline, who had an 18-yard TD catch against Atlanta. "And high expectations bring out the best in you. We welcome it."
Miami, which aims for its first 4-0 start since 1995, faces an undefeated New Orleans Saints on the road this Monday night.
NFL 2013 Week 3 Results
Kansas City 26, PHILADELPHIA 16
BALTIMORE 30, Houston 9
NEW ENGLAND 23, Tampa Bay 3
MIAMI 27, Atlanta 23
DALLAS 31, St. Louis 7
SEATTLE 45, Jacksonville 17
CAROLINA 38, NY Giants 0
NY JETS 27, Buffalo 20
Detroit 27, WASHINGTON 20
Indianapolis 27, SAN FRANCISCO 7
TENNESSEE 20, San Diego 17
Chicago 40, PITTSBURGH 23
CINCINNATI 34, Green Bay 30
Cleveland 31, MINNESOTA 27
NEW ORLEANS 31, Arizona 7
DENVER 37, Oakland 21
NFL 2013 Week 4 Schedule
(All times local)
Byes: Carolina, Green Bay
San Francisco at St. Louis 7:25 PM (Thursday - NFLN)
Arizona at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
NY Jets at Tennessee, 3:05 PM
Philadelphia at Denver, 2:25 PM
Baltimore at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Washington at Oakland, 1:25 PM
Cincinnati at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Dallas at San Diego, 1:25 PM
Chicago at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Seattle at Houston, 12:00 PM
Indianapolis at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
NY Giants at Kansas City, 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh at Minnesota (London), 6:00 PM
New England at Atlanta, 8:30 (NBC)
Miami at New Orleans, 7:40 PM (Monday - ESPN)