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Were the New York Jets the NFL’s unluckiest team in 2021?

Robert Saleh, NY Jets, Stats, 2021
Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets were down on their luck in 2021

Yesterday, I analyzed the New York Jets’ incredibly poor luck on fumble recoveries during the 2021 NFL season. While researching the subject, I stumbled across a few more statistical categories in which the Jets endured brutal luck, so I wanted to bring them all together to answer this question: Were the Jets the unluckiest team in football last year?

We’ll be taking a look at three facets of football in which teams have little-to-no control over the outcome: fumble recovery percentage, opponent field goal percentage, and injuries.

Let’s take a look at how the Jets fared in these three luck-based categories and compare their numbers to the rest of the NFL.

Fumble recovery percentage

As we broke down yesterday, the Jets actually did a phenomenal job of avoiding fumbles offensively and forcing fumbles defensively. Their +12 fumble margin ranked 2nd-best in the NFL, as they had only 14 fumbles to their opponents’ 26.

However, the ball rarely bounced the Jets’ way when it came loose. Despite their excellent margin of overall fumbles, the Jets lost the same number of fumbles as their opponents (7 apiece). The Jets only recovered 35.0% of all available fumbles, which ranked 2nd-worst in the league.

Opponent field goal percentage

Opponent field goal kicking is probably the most luck-based category in the NFL. Save for the once-in-a-blue-moon blocked kick, there is nothing a team can do to decrease the opposing kicker’s effectiveness.

The Jets were the victims of some tremendously consistent kicking last year. Their opponents made 36 out of 39 field goal attempts, a 92.3% conversion rate, which ranked 4th-highest in the league.

That number is partially due to the Jets’ bad defense allowing a lot of short field goals that were easier to make. Only two of the 39 attempts were from more than 50 yards out, and the average distance was 35.9 yards, which is below the 2021 NFL average of 38.6.

Regardless, the Jets simply did not get as many breaks as they should have. New York’s enemies were automatic on the freebies, going 23-of-24 on kicks from under 40 yards out. They even went 11-of-12 on kicks from 40 to 49 yards out.


Ah yes, the crown jewel of luck in sports: injuries.

Football Outsiders tracks a statistic called “Adjusted Games Lost” (AGL) that estimates the total number of missed games due to injury that a team suffered. The statistic also accounts for the role of the players who were injured; in other words, a team’s AGL stat will be hurt more severely when starters miss games than when backups miss games.

In 2021, the Jets battled a gruesome total of 158.5 AGL, ranking 2nd-worst in the NFL behind only the Ravens (191.2). That’s 81% higher than the AGL of the average NFL team in 2021, which was 87.7.

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

Rounding it all together

Was there any team in the NFL that fared as poorly in these three categories as the Jets? Let’s find out.

The Jets placed 2nd-worst in FR%, 4th-worst in opponent FG%, and 2nd-worst in AGL. That’s an average ranking of 2.7 between the three categories.

Yes, that was the worst average ranking in the NFL across those three categories – by far. The second-worst team was the Browns, who had an average ranking of 7.3.

Here is how the league fared in these three luck-based statistics – remember, the higher the ranking (the lower the number), the worse the luck:

Bad Luck RankTmAvg RkFR% RkOPP FG% RkAGL Rk
1New York Jets2.7242
2Cleveland Browns7.36115
3Jacksonville Jaguars8.311014
4Detroit Lions9.313123
5New York Giants10.31786
5Pittsburgh Steelers10.311812
7Washington Football Team11.02427
8Los Angeles Chargers12.38524
9Denver Broncos12.74295
10Houston Texans13.0101316
11Carolina Panthers13.771618
12Los Angeles Rams14.751128
13Atlanta Falcons15.012330
14Tampa Bay Buccaneers15.3141517
15Chicago Bears16.021720
16Seattle Seahawks17.332326
17Philadelphia Eagles17.7191321
18Las Vegas Raiders18.022239
19Indianapolis Colts18.3182710
20Baltimore Ravens18.725301
21Tennessee Titans19.092523
22San Francisco 49ers19.326284
23New Orleans Saints19.726258
23Green Bay Packers19.7231719
25Minnesota Vikings20.3311812
26Arizona Cardinals21.7322211
27Buffalo Bills22.029631
28New England Patriots22.7143222
29Kansas City Chiefs24.0202032
30Cincinnati Bengals24.3163126
31Dallas Cowboys25.3302125
31Miami Dolphins25.3281929

No other team placed bottom-four in even just two categories, whereas the Jets placed bottom-four in all three.

Jets fans will also be pleased to see that all three of their AFC East rivals benefitted from good luck in 2021. The Dolphins tied the Cowboys for the best luck in these three categories with an average ranking of 25.3. The Patriots ranked fifth-best at 22.7 while the Bills were sixth-best at 22.0. These teams are due for some more misfortune in 2022, whereas the Jets are due for some better luck.

We’ll see how the pendulum decides to swing in 2022. Every season is another random roll of the dice; it’s never guaranteed that a team will have the opposite level of luck that it did in the previous season. A team can be very lucky or extremely unlucky in two consecutive seasons or even more than that. It happens.

All we know for certain is this: The Jets lost a ton of points on the scoreboard through factors that were beyond their control.

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1 year ago

Crazy that we could be this unlucky