By Bill Coats
Wednesday, Sep. 26 2007

Call them the Feckless Five, the quintet of NFL teams that are lugging 0-3
records: the Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New
Orleans Saints.

The most surprising among the winless are the Saints, who went 10-6 last year,
won the NFC South and came up one win short of the Super Bowl. Next up are the
Rams, who finished with three wins in a row to wind up 8-8, then supplemented
their 2006 outfit with seemingly sound offseason moves.

The Bills started 2-5 last season but finished 7-9 and were thought to be
improving heading into their second season under coach Dick Jauron.

The fact that the Falcons and Dolphins are struggling is hardly a bombshell.
Atlanta, 7-9 in '06, is without offensive catalyst Michael Vick though his
successor at quarterback, Joey Harrington, is putting up reasonable numbers.
The Dolphins were 6-10 last year, and coach Cam Cameron inherited a mess from
Nick Saban.

Is there a common thread that links the five and explains their sluggish start?
In fact, there are several:

The running game None of the teams sports a back who is higher than 16th in
yardage in the league statistics. Defensively, none ranks better than 19th
against the run.

The passing game Harrington has a 90.6 passer rating, 15th among starting
quarterbacks. The four other QBs are at 76.8 or lower, putting them in the
lower third.

Offense in general The Rams (seventh overall) and the Falcons (17th) are
playing decent defense. But only one of the five Miami (14th) ranks higher
than No. 20 in total offense. Also, the Bills are the lowest-scoring team in
the NFL. The Falcons are No. 30, the Rams No. 29 and the Saints No. 25.

Turnovers None of the five is on the plus side in the all-important
takeaways-giveaways category. The Bills are even, but the Saints are 32nd
(minus 8), the Dolphins are 30th (minus 5), and the Rams and Falcons are tied
for 28th (minus 3).

So, which team has the best chance at going 0-4? Well, it won't be the Saints;
this is their bye week.

Among the others, the oddsmakers say it's the Rams. They play the 3-0 Cowboys
in Dallas and are listed as 11-point underdogs, a startlingly wide margin for
an NFL game.

The three others have home games. The Dolphins are 4-point favorites over 1-2
Oakland, the Falcons are 3-point underdogs vs. 2-1 Houston, and the Bills are
3-point underdogs against the 1-2 New York Jets.