So the Vikings and Cowboys are a combined 0-4, while the Bears, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Texans and Roethlisberger-free Steelers are 12-0.

That would be totally shocking if it wasn't completely typical of the NFL.

Two teams heavily favored to slug it out for the NFC title can't win a game. And six teams that missed the playoffs last season haven't lost a game.

It's enough to make a cosmetically altered NFL owner pop a stitch.

"I am mad, upset, frustrated and extremely disappointed," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters after Sunday's 27-20 upset loss to the visiting Bears. "I'm disappointed for our fans, first of all, to begin with. They have and should expect more in terms of the record. We have dug a big hole here and we've got a lot of work to do to even have a semblance of getting out of it."

From now until Sunday, there is hope for the seemingly hopeless in Minnesota and Dallas. From now until Sunday, there's a precedent that says your out-of-whack team can start 0-2 and still make the Super Bowl.

The 1993 Cowboys, 1996 Patriots, 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants are your guiding light this week. Each started 0-2 and made the playoffs. All but the 1996 Patriots won the Super Bowl.

This lifeline of hope, however, expires for all 0-2 teams if they lose on Sunday. That's because in the Super Bowl era, no 0-3 team has made it to the championship game. And only three of the 332 teams to start 0-3 have even made the playoffs.

The Cowboys travel to Houston on Sunday in what's already a critical game for America's Team.

"I think we are at a crossroads," said coach Wade Phillips, who also could have been describing the Vikings' situation heading into their home game against the Lions (0-2).

For inspiration, here's a look at the four teams that started 0-2 yet made the Super Bowl:

1993 Cowboys

Week 3: Beat the Cardinals 17-10 to start a seven-game winning streak. Finished 12-4, won the NFC East and beat Buffalo 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Why'd they start 0-2? Easy. Emmitt Smith missed the first two games because of a contract holdout. After he returned, he won the rushing title (1,486), regular-season MVP and Super Bowl MVP as the Cowboys repeated as champions.

1996 Patriots

Week 3: Beat Arizona 31-0 to start a three-game winning streak. Finished atop the AFC East at 11-5 and lost to the Packers 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.

Why'd they start 0-2? Coach Bill Parcells was feuding with owner Robert Kraft after Kraft overruled Parcells on draft day and allowed the Patriots' scouting department to draft receiver Terry Glenn in the first round. Parcells and the Pats parted in an ugly divorce after the Super Bowl.

2001 Patriots

Week 3: Beat the Colts 44-13. Won five of seven, finished 11-5, won the AFC East and beat the Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Why'd they start 0-2? The Patriots were 5-13 under second-year coach Bill Belichick when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis delivered the hit that started the New England dynasty and made Belichick a Hall of Famer in waiting. Lewis knocked Drew Bledsoe out of the game and started the Tom Brady era in Week 2. The rest is, as they say, history.

2007 Giants

Week 3: After losing to Dallas 45-35 and Green Bay 35-13, the Giants used a goal-line stand in the closing seconds to win 24-17 at Washington. The won six in a row, finished 10-6, earned a wild-card berth and upset the 18-0 Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

Why'd they start 0-2? The defense that contained the high-flying Pats at the end of the season couldn't stop anyone in Weeks 1-2.

Of all the 0-2 teams that went on to make the Super Bowl, the Giants are the one that makes it seem like anything is possible. New York was a middle-of-the-road team in scoring (14th) and scoring defense (17th) that year. Quarterback Eli Manning threw 20 interceptions. But that goal-line stand in Week 3 jump-started a good team that turned things around and then got red hot at the perfect time.