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.
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 Rank||Tm||Avg Rk||FR% Rk||OPP FG% Rk||AGL Rk|
|1||New York Jets||2.7||2||4||2|
|5||New York Giants||10.3||17||8||6|
|7||Washington Football Team||11.0||24||2||7|
|8||Los Angeles Chargers||12.3||8||5||24|
|12||Los Angeles Rams||14.7||5||11||28|
|14||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15.3||14||15||17|
|18||Las Vegas Raiders||18.0||22||23||9|
|22||San Francisco 49ers||19.3||26||28||4|
|23||New Orleans Saints||19.7||26||25||8|
|23||Green Bay Packers||19.7||23||17||19|
|28||New England Patriots||22.7||14||32||22|
|29||Kansas City Chiefs||24.0||20||20||32|
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.