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Are the NY Jets due for better or worse luck in 2023?

NY Jets Fumble Recovery Rate Luck 2023
Tanzel Smart, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets hope luck is finally on their side after catching some tough breaks in 2022

NFL teams spend 365 days a year hyper-focusing on roster construction, X’s & O’s, and player development to maximize their odds of building a championship team. But the grim reality of the NFL is that a whole lot of what happens is a product of sheer luck. No matter how hard you work to tilt the odds in your favor, there will always be numerous factors outside of your control.

Today, we will be analyzing some of those uncontrollable factors and how they affected the New York Jets in 2022. Were the Jets helped or hurt by their luck? Should we expect the Jets to be more or less lucky in 2023?

I ranked all 32 NFL teams according to how they fared in six luck-based categories during the 2022 regular season:

  • Strength of schedule according to DVOA
  • Opponent offensive pre-snap penalties
  • Adjusted Games Lost due to injuries
  • Opponent field goal percentage
  • Fumble recovery rate
  • Opponent drop rate

Let’s find out where the Jets stacked up in each of these categories. Then, we’ll average the Jets’ ranking across the six categories to get an approximation of their overall luck.

Strength of schedule (DVOA)

  • Luck rank: 32

Strength of schedule is crucial in the NFL. Since each team only faces 14 of the other 31 franchises in a given season, there is a huge discrepancy in schedule difficulty across the league. Some teams get to plow through a soft schedule while others face a gauntlet. Obviously, teams have zero control over how their schedule pans out, so this is arguably the most luck-based factor in the sport.

According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), the Jets had the league’s hardest schedule in 2022 with an average opponent DVOA of 5.7%. For reference, a 5.7% DVOA is nearly identical to the 10th-best team in the NFL last season, the Seahawks, who had a 5.8% DVOA. So, essentially, the Jets’ average opponent was similar in quality to the NFL’s 10th-best team.

It’s important to note that this ranking is slightly misleading considering the Jets’ luck with injuries to opposing quarterbacks – specifically when they faced the Dolphins.

Miami was the league’s eighth-ranked team in DVOA at 8.2%, and since they faced the Jets twice, they played a large role in pushing the Jets to the top spot in schedule difficulty. However, the Jets faced the Dolphins’ backup quarterback, Skylar Thompson, in both matchups. The Dolphins were a far different team in 2022 with and without Tua Tagovailoa, going 8-4 when Tua started and did not leave due to injury compared to 1-4 when he either missed the game or left early due to injury. The Jets caught a massive break by not having to face a Tua-led Dolphins team.

DVOA does not account for injuries, so the Jets’ two games against the Dolphins are counted as much more difficult than they actually were. The Jets also lucked out of facing Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, instead facing Brett Rypien and Trevor Siemian.

The Jets probably did not have the league’s hardest schedule if you adjusted for injuries to opposing players. But even if you did make those adjustments, the Jets likely had one of the league’s two or three hardest schedules.

Outside of the Miami games, the Jets still played 12 of their other 15 games against teams who ranked top 15 in DVOA – and they all had their starting quarterback. New York was handed a tough slate that featured very few “easy” opportunities for wins, which gives the 2023 schedule plenty of room to include more of those “easy” games than the 2022 schedule did.

Opponent offensive pre-snap penalties

  • Luck rank: 21

Offensive pre-snap penalties (false start, delay of game, illegal motion, illegal formation, etc.) are huge drive-killers. Yet, there is nothing a defense can do to force them – as opposed to pre-snap penalties by the defense, which are occasionally created by the cadence of the quarterback. Pre-snap penalties by the offense are entirely self-inflicted.

Considering their importance alongside their self-inflicted nature, I thought this was an important luck-based category to include. The number of offensive pre-snap penalties by a team’s opponents can make a significant impact on that team’s defensive performance even though the team itself has no control over how often it happens.

The Jets ranked 21st in the league with 20 offensive pre-snap penalties by their opponents. The league average was 23, so the Jets benefited from three fewer of these penalties than the average team.

Adjusted Games Lost (AGL)

  • Luck rank: 19

Football Outsiders tracks a metric called Adjusted Games Lost that attempts to quantify how badly each team was hurt by its injuries. As described by the website, AGL “doesn’t just add up total injuries. It accounts for both absent players and those playing at less than 100%, and it gives more weight to injuries to expected starters and situational players than to expected backups.”

The Jets suffered from 86.0 AGL in 2022, ranking as the 19th-fewest. The league average was 79.3.

New York’s injury luck was a tale of two sides of the football. Offensively, the Jets were cursed with nightmarish luck, ranking fourth-worst with 77.5 AGL. However, the Jets’ defense was blessed by the football gods, enjoying a league-low 8.6 AGL.

Overall, the offensive struggles slightly outweighed the success of the defense to give the Jets a below-average overall result in the injury department. Still, because of their remarkable health defensively, the Jets’ injury luck was not quite as bad as many fans think.

Opponent field goal percentage

  • Luck rank: 6

Missed kicks by the opponent are very beneficial on the scoreboard but are nearly entirely up to luck. Save for the extremely rare block, there is nothing a team can do to minimize the opponent’s chance of making a field goal.

The Jets were lucky in this area. New York’s opponents connected on just 76.7% of their field goals (33 for 43), ranking sixth-lowest. The total of 10 missed field goals by the Jets’ opponents was the second-most.

There were multiple Jets victories in which a missed kick proved pivotal.

In Week 5, the Dolphins missed a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that would have given them a 20-19 lead. The Jets used the field position to march down and score, jump-starting a 21-0 run to close out the win. In Week 7, the Broncos missed an extra point and a 56-yard field goal in an eventual 13-6 loss. In Week 9, the Bills missed a 55-yard attempt just before halftime that would have put them up 17-10, and the Jets eventually won by three points.

To be fair, those were all 50-plus yard attempts, lowering the odds of a make. Still, missing a 50-yarder yields better field position than missing a short kick, and that was important in the Miami game specifically. There were also a handful of missed sub-50-yard kicks in games where the Jets lost, making the final score look closer than it should have been.

While I did not include extra points in this ranking, the Jets caught an enormous break on an extra point in Week 2. The Browns missed an extra point on a fourth-quarter touchdown that kept their lead at 30-17 instead of 31-17. This turned out costly when the Jets miraculously scored two touchdowns in under two minutes, allowing them to take the lead instead of tying the game (or trying a two-point attempt for the lead).

Altogether, the Jets got pretty lucky when it came to opposing kicking. Football Outsiders tracks a special teams metric called “hidden points” that aims to capture the impact of special teams elements that are outside of a team’s control, including opposing field goals, kickoff distance, and punt distance. The Jets benefited from the fourth-most hidden points with 10.3.

Fumble recovery rate

  • Luck rank: 30

The shape of the football makes it very difficult for players to predict which direction the ball will bounce whenever it hits the ground. For this reason, recovering fumbles is a highly luck-based part of the sport that cannot truly be practiced or perfected.

It can be argued that there is some degree of skill to recovering fumbles, but at the end of the day, the ball decides where it wants to go. Because of the impromptu nature of fumble situations, fate plays a much larger role than skill in determining the outcome of fumbles. Usually, the person who recovers the ball just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Jets fans are well aware of their team’s inexplicably bad luck when the ball gets loose, and the numbers bear that out. The Jets came up with 40% of all loose balls in 2022, placing 30th in the NFL.

The Jets actually had fairly average luck when it came to retaining their own fumbles. They ranked 17th with a recovery rate of 57.1% offensively, which is above the league average of 53.6%. It was on defense where the ball was allergic to green-and-white gloves. The Jets’ defense came up with an inconceivably bad 21.1% of opponent fumbles – less than half of the 46.4% league average.

This was the Jets’ second straight season of bad luck in this category. They ranked 28th with a 26.9% recovery rate on defense in 2021. So, maybe there is more than just bad luck at play here.

But that can’t continue for a third straight season, right? It would seem like you’d have to actively avoid the football to recover under 30% of fumbles in three consecutive seasons. We shall see, though. Luck and the New York Jets have never had the best relationship.

Opponent drop rate

  • Luck rank: 10

Like offensive pre-snap penalties, drops are self-inflicted wounds that cannot be forced by the defense.

Opponent drop rates are a useful tool for contextualizing each team’s defensive performance. Teams who lucked into a high rate of opposing drops were probably a little bit less effective in pass defense than their raw numbers suggest, and vice versa for teams whose opponents rarely dropped passes.

The Jets leaned toward the lucky side in this category, although not to an extreme degree.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Jets’ opponents dropped 21 passes against 347 receptions, giving them an opponent drop rate of 5.7% which ranked 10th-highest. The league-average drop rate in NGS’ system was 5.1%, meaning the Jets benefited from a 0.6% higher drop rate than average. That equates to a total of about two more drops than expected across the Jets’ total of 368 opponent catch opportunities.

Where did the Jets’ luck rank across the NFL?

It’s time to bring everything together for a consummate approximation of the Jets’ luck in 2022.

As a refresher, here is where the Jets ranked in the six categories we analyzed:

  • Strength of schedule according to DVOA: 32nd
  • Opponent offensive pre-snap penalties: 21st
  • Adjusted Games Lost due to injuries: 19th
  • Opponent field goal percentage: 6th
  • Fumble recovery rate: 30th
  • Opponent drop rate: 10th

The Jets’ average ranking was 19.7. This placed them 25th out of 32 teams.

RkTeamAvg RankSOSPre-snapAGLOpp FG%FR%Opp Drop%
1PHI8.014320119
1DAL8.062181345
3LV9.792120116
4CAR11.321893225
5HOU12.05101419222
6GB13.8158671631
7BUF14.020101342215
8DET14.317132712134
8SEA14.3114892628
10SF14.52162452416
11WAS14.71921212331
12JAX14.8317232287
13IND15.0829728513
13NE15.022611111030
15PIT15.23171212011
16MIN16.014295171219
16KC16.0426426927
16ATL16.0121312181823
19NYG16.716326161920
20CHI17.22821162729
21LAC17.37281581432
22BAL18.326292510614
22CIN18.3291710141624
24DEN18.810173231158
25NYJ19.732211963010
26TEN20.213130272921
27CLE20.8271717153217
28NO21.0182123252118
28ARI21.023102930826
30LAR23.325323124253
31TB23.8242628223112
32MIA24.2301522292722

In 2023, the Jets’ luck has far more room for improvement than regression.

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