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Simulations of NY Jets’ 2023 season have a crucial inconsistency

NY Jets Simulator, 2023, Prediction, Record
Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

The NY Jets’ projections on PFF’s simulator have a large inconsistency

Another day, another site underselling the New York Jets. That’s about par for the course, no matter how talented the team’s roster is.

This time, Pro Football Focus joined the parade. Ironically, they recently ranked Aaron Rodgers the fifth-best quarterback in the game, but they still seem not to believe in the Jets. That’s a strange take in and of itself.

The way their new Game Simulator Tool projects the Jets’ season, time after time, is even more baffling. After running tens of simulations, fellow Jet X writer Oliver Cochrane and I consistently came up with very low win totals for the Jets, including many under-.500 records.

After a while of coming up with these projections, I started looking at the more specific statistical benchmarks they gave for the Jets’ top offensive players. I was curious to see if they projected a downturn for Rodgers; after all, that would most likely be the reason that the Jets would underachieve this season.

The results I found were even more puzzling: virtually every simulation, no matter how poor the Jets’ record is (as low as 4-13), has Rodgers putting forth a very good or even excellent statistical season. In fact, here are the first 10 record/Rodgers stats pairings I found.

  • Jets: 9-8 Rodgers 66.8% completion percentage, 4,433 yards, 33 TD, 9 INT
  • Jets: 12-5 Rodgers 68.7% completion percentage, 4,295 yards, 33 TD, 8 INT
  • Jets: 4-13 Rodgers 65.2% completion percentage, 5,170 yards, 29 TD, 13 INT
  • Jets: 10-7 Rodgers 64.9% completion percentage, 4,616 yards, 31 TD, 13 INT
  • Jets: 8-9 Rodgers 65.5% completion percentage, 4,966 yards, 24 TD, 17 INT
  • Jets: 8-9 Rodgers 65.7% completion percentage, 4,783 yards, 27 TD, 13 INT
  • Jets: 11-6 Rodgers 65.0% completion percentage, 5,201 yards, 26 TD, 10 INT
  • Jets: 9-8 Rodgers 66.5% completion percentage, 4,896 yards, 27 TD, 11 INT
  • Jets: 8-9 Rodgers 64.6% completion percentage, 5,202 yards, 36 TD, 9 INT
  • Jets: 7-10 Rodgers 63.0% completion percentage, 4,316 yards, 18 TD, 10 INT

Now, as a writer for an analytically-focused site such as Jets X-Factor, I would be remiss to look at Rodgers’ counting statistics as the sole predictor of the Jets’ success as a team. We’ve seen a number of teams with poor records and dazzling quarterback numbers, headlined by the final year that Deshaun Watson played with the Texans in 2020 (70.2%, 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 4-12 record).

Additionally, Rodgers’ listed completion percentages are not necessarily that high. In 2022, the median completion rate for quarterbacks with at least 175 dropbacks was 65.1%; in 2021 it was 65.0%, and in 2020 it was 65.8%. Rodgers is right around the median in most of these simulations. Still, those yardage totals are very high for a run-first offense, particularly since they usually also have Breece Hall and Zonovan Knight combining for over 1,300 rushing yards.

Still, a team of the talent level that the Jets possess would be hard-pressed to put up a poor season with the kinds of numbers listed above. Obviously, Rodgers could compile passing yards in garbage time, but that would be relying on a severe regression from the defense. These are not just high yardage totals; the touchdown numbers mean that the Jets are scoring a lot of points. To lose that much, the defense would need to take a complete nosedive.

Of course, defensive fluctuations from year to year are far more common than offensive ones. The Jets also face a daunting slate of offenses. Even so, it would be difficult to predict a fall from the No. 5 overall defense into the 20s, which is likely where the Jets would need to be to lose with those kinds of passing stats.

Trial averages

For simulations to have any statistical significance, there generally need to be at least 1,000 of them. I don’t have the time or technology access to do 1,000, but I knocked myself out with 100. Here are the averages I ended up with.

  • Wins: 8.6
  • Losses: 8.4
  • Completions: 393
  • Attempts: 595
  • Completion percentage: 66.1%
  • Passing Yards: 4,830
  • Touchdowns: 28
  • Interceptions: 11
  • Rushing yardage from top two rushers: 1,286
  • Total yardage from QB plus top two rushers: 6,116

In other words, 100 simulations projected the Jets to average out to a 9-8 or 8-9 record. Now, considering that the Dolphins made the playoffs with a 9-8 record last season, it’s possible that the former could be enough to earn a playoff spot. However, that kind of win total would be ridiculously disappointing for the Jets. The over/under for their win total in 2023 is 9.5 at -134/+110, and even with the line favoring the over, that is being bet widely in Vegas.

Furthermore, though, the projections for Rodgers’ stats are stunning compared to the average win total. It would be very difficult to imagine the Jets quarterback throwing for 4,830 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 11 picks and the team winding up 9-8 or 8-9. Let’s look at some further numbers.

Over the last 15 NFL seasons, 12 quarterbacks have thrown for 4,830 yards or more. Seven of those teams won 11 games or more; one went 9-6-1, one went 8-8, and the other three went 7-9. Teams whose quarterbacks throw for that much yardage are usually more successful than a .529 (9-8) win percentage.

With rushing yards

In the 100 trials, Breece Hall and Zonovan Knight combined for an average of 1,286 rushing yards. The Jets’ average yardage total from just Rodgers, Hall, and Knight was 6,116 yards.

I compared these numbers to those of NFL teams over the last 15 years, which is roughly when passing offenses started to explode. I began with a very conservative comparison: teams whose quarterback threw for at least 4,000 yards and their top two rushers combined for at least 1,000 yards. There were 81 teams since 2008 that met these criteria. Of those, 56 (69.1%) won at least nine games, and 49 (60.5%) won at least 10.

When narrowing the criteria to at least 4,250 passing yards and 1,100 rushing yards, there are now 50 teams remaining. Of those, 36 (72%) won at least nine games, 29 (58%) won at least 10, and 21 (42%) won at least 12.

Let’s now go with the full range of criteria from the PFF simulator averages: at least 4,800 passing yards and 1,200 rushing yards for a combined total of at least 6,000 yards. Only nine teams since 2008 met those criteria; all but one (the 2016 Saints) won at least nine games, and six of them won at least 12.

Even if we just go with the 6,000-yard minimum and no distinction between passing and rushing yards, 18 of the 30 teams who have done so since 2008 (60%) won at least 12 games.

In other words, with these yardage averages, the Jets’ average of 8.6 victories is pretty suspect.

What does this mean?

Now that I wrote this whole article, the question is if it even matters. I believe it does for a couple of reasons.

It will be very interesting to see what PFF thinks of the Jets’ defense before the season. The way their simulator has been trained, it seems that they must be significantly bullish on the defense. It takes a certain level of pessimism to see a regression way past the mean in the other direction for this defense. It may not be as good as it was in 2022 for various reasons, but it’s hard to justify expecting a colossal decline.

More importantly, don’t take the simulator too seriously. It is almost certainly overstating Rodgers’ yardage total while possibly underselling the running backs’ numbers. Simulators are fun for what they’re worth, but just as Madden comes up with interesting results in simulations, so does this one.

A third point is not to expect Madden numbers from Rodgers. The Jets are still committed to being a run-first team. Ideally, the passing yards will be lower because they’re leading in games and running the ball down opponents’ throats, rather as they did to Miami and Green Bay in the fourth quarter of their Week 5 and 6 games in 2022.

During the period between the draft and training camp, there is a major lull in the NFL action, and writers are often desperate to come up with stories. The PFF simulator qualifies as a nice storyline but is hardly predictive in any meaningful way.

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DFargas
DFargas
1 year ago

Thanks for doing all this analytical grunt work to provide realistic expectations for Jets fans. I think 9-8 or 8-9 sounds about right, everything considered, including a new QB (no matter how good he is) and a reconstructed offensive line with injury concerns. I could see a bad start, like 1-4, and then moderate improvement to end up at around .500.

Peter Buell
1 year ago

Analytics are taking over every sport.
If they were precise some intelligent gamblers would have made a fortune.
I never thought the D was as good as its rank last year. Way too many 3rd downs converted. Especially 3rd and 7+ seemed like a 50/50 deal.
If moving JFM and Clemmons inside works we will see what a truly dominant D looks like.
Quincy will get even better imo and Kwon needs to be back.
With added pieces in the secondary LB Is the only place I see a possible weakness.
I think if they want to be sure, upgrading wr2 is a must.
If Breece is healthy, despite a difficult schedule where they play both Super Bowel participants from last year, the Chiefs and a tough division, barring long and significant injuries I can’t see the Jets not winning 10 games and I’m expecting 12.
There are just too few weaknesses…with the two additions mentioned

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