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Are the New York Jets due for better luck in 2024?

NY Jets, Ashtyn Davis, Fumbles
Ashtyn Davis, New York Jets, Getty Images

It may be almost impossible to replicate the New York Jets’ bad luck in 2023

When discussing the New York Jets’ luck in 2023, I could write “Aaron Rodgers” and end the article there. Rodgers’ season-ending Achilles tear was just about the worst luck a team could get. That it was the second time in team history it happened in Week 1 of an all-in season just speaks to how snake-bitten the Jets’ franchise is.

Still, there are six primary luck-based categories to rate NFL teams in. Fans and players alike misjudge just how much variance this accounts for in a given season. It’s worth looking at the numbers because wildly good or bad luck tends to regress to the mean over time.

I examined how the Jets’ luck held up in these six categories compared to all 32 NFL teams and how their rankings changed from the previous season. (Michael Nania previously performed this exercise in 2022.)

  • 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

How did the Jets’ luck stack up in these areas and as a whole?

Strength of schedule (DVOA)

  • Luck rank: 18th

While we spend much time looking at perceived strength of schedule (SOS) before a given season, it’s only after the year when the true SOS becomes evident. An easier SOS can have a major impact on a team. Just look at the 2015 Jets, whose 30th-ranked SOS by DVOA (-7.5%) propelled them to an unexpected 10-6 record and a near-playoff berth.

DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) is a good way to measure SOS because it accounts for the opponent’s SOS, as well.

In 2023, the Jets’ supposed gauntlet turned into a slightly more difficult schedule than average with a 0.5% DVOA. Had Rodgers stayed healthy, the team would have had every opportunity to make the playoffs. Playing the Patriots twice (27th), the Commanders (31st), the Giants (30th), the Falcons (28th), the Broncos (24th), and the Raiders (21st) should have been a cakewalk for the Jets. Instead, they finished with a 25th-ranked -12.5% DVOA themselves and went 4-3 even against those inferior teams.

The Jets’ 2024 opponents finished the 2023 season with an average DVOA of 2.9%, which would have ranked the ninth-hardest. Much can change in-season, though.

Opponent offensive pre-snap penalties

  • Luck rank: T-23rd

An opponent’s offensive pre-snap penalties (false start, delay of game, illegal formation, illegal motion, etc.) are based almost entirely on luck. Of course, some fan bases make more noise and might promote offensive confusion, and excellent pass rushers might cause an offensive lineman to jump early. Still, for the most part, there’s not much defensive input on offensive pre-snap penalties.

Offensive pre-snap penalties are crippling and often drive-stoppers, helping the defense disproportionately based on their lack of involvement in the play. According to the RBSDM database, the Jets benefited from 21 offensive pre-snap penalties against them, which tied for the 23rd-most in the NFL. The league average was 26.2, so the Jets had about five fewer opponent offensive pre-snap penalties than the typical NFL team.

Adjusted Games Lost (AGL)

  • Luck rank: 27th

Aaron Schatz of FTN Fantasy tracks a metric called Adjusted Games Lost. It 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.”

Not only did Rodgers miss the season, but the Jets played 13 different offensive linemen throughout the season. Unsurprisingly, their 98.8 AGL ranked 27th among teams. That included 31st on offense (72.8), behind only the Texans, and 11th on defense. Surprisingly, the Jets had an even worse offensive AGL in 2022 at 77.5, demonstrating how bad their offensive luck has been in back-to-back seasons.

While the Jets always hope for better injury luck, there is reason to expect another year of putrid AGL. Between Rodgers, Mike Williams, Tyron Smith, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Morgan Moses, they have five players who are highly susceptible to injury in 2024. That does not include a defense bound to suffer a catastrophic injury sometime after staying mostly healthy for two consecutive seasons.

Opponent field goal percentage

  • Luck rank: 19

Short of blocking a field goal, there is very little an opponent can do to influence whether a kicker hits or misses. Opposing kickers went 34-for-39 (87.18%) on field goals against the Jets, which was slightly above the 85.62% league average. Ultimately, the difference between the Jets and the league average was about one made field goal, but they were still somewhat unlucky.

The misses the Jets did get were pretty consequential, though. Chad Ryland of the Patriots missed two field goals, a 48-yarder and a 57-yarder, in the second quarter of the Jets’ 15-10 loss in Week 3. They didn’t end up impacting the outcome of the game, but the Jets had a chance to tie or take the lead down 13-10 late. Had Ryland made those two field goals, it would have been a two-score game.

Trailing 14-12 against Philadelphia with 8:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Jets benefited from a 37-yard miss from Jake Elliott. Had Elliott hit the field goal, Philadelphia would not have let Breece Hall to score following Tony Adams’ interception late in the game, as it would have been a 17-12 game. The Jets ultimately won the game.

In Week 8, Graham Gano missed a 47-yarder and a 35-yarder against the Jets in what ended a 13-10 game. The second miss was particularly vexing for the Giants, as it would have all but sealed the deal, making it 13-7 Giants with 28 seconds remaining in the game. Instead, the Jets got the ball back and drove down for the game-tying field goal, eventually winning in overtime. Will McDonald had a big hand in the second miss, as he jumped over the line and got into Gano’s kicking lane. Nevertheless, it was a stroke of good fortune for the Jets.

Kickers went 7-of-8 (87.5%) from 50+ against the Jets, as Ryland’s was the lone miss. NFL kickers averaged a 64.5% field goal percentage on attempts from 50+, so the Jets got significantly unlucky in that area.

Fumble recovery rate

  • Luck rank: 32

The Jets can’t recover a fumble if it smacks them in the face. Fumble recoveries are a tremendously fluky part of football, as the way the ball bounces on the ground is anyone’s guess. The massive impact of turnovers on a game and the luck involved in fumble recoveries are at odds with each other.

The Jets recovered just 38.1% of the fumbles put on the ground in their games, the worst rank in the league. They actually recovered 10 opponent fumbles, tied for the 13th-most in the league, but they lost 18 of 32 fumbles, the most fumbles and the most lost fumbles in the NFL. Overall, the Jets recovered just 24 of 63 fumbles on the season.

Obviously, the sheer number of footballs the Jets put on the ground in 2023 was inexcusable. Zach Wilson was the main culprit with 11 fumbles, followed by Trevor Siemian and Xavier Gipson (5 each). Aaron Rodgers has never fumbled more than 10 times in a season and averages 6.8 per 17-game season in his career, while Jets quarterbacks combined for 19 fumbles in 2023. Perhaps the Jets can get some more “luck” simply by putting the ball on the ground less.

Opponent drop rate

  • Luck rank: T-12th

Defensive players have no control over whether a player drops a pass. If they contest the play and the ball comes loose, that’s not considered a drop. It’s when the receiver has the ball in his hands without interference and simply lets it loose – and that’s just the luck of the defender.

Jets opponents caught 313 passes and dropped 18, giving them a 5.4% drop rate on the season. That ranked 12th among teams and was slightly above the league average of 5.2%. Ultimately, though, they canceled out their luck by dropping 6.6% of their own passes.

Where did the Jets’ luck rank across the NFL?

The Jets averaged a luck rank of 21.8, ranking 30th out of the 32 NFL teams. Only Carolina and Tennessee were more unlucky, on average, throughout the season.

Here is where the Jets ranked in each of the six categories:

  • Strength of schedule according to DVOA: 18th
  • Opponent offensive pre-snap penalties: 23rd
  • Adjusted Games Lost due to injuries: 27th
  • Opponent field goal percentage: 19th
  • Fumble recovery rate: 32nd
  • Opponent drop rate: 12th

Perhaps it’s worth taking a weighted average of these categories, as you can argue that adjusted games lost is more important than, say, opponent field goal percentage. Still, this is a thumbnail analysis of how the Jets’ luck held up in 2023.

This was even worse than the Jets’ 2022 placement, when they ranked 25th with an average ranking of 19.7. When you thought the Jets’ luck couldn’t get any worse, it still managed to take another dip.

Maybe things will be different in 2024, as luck tends to even out over time. Or maybe not.

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verge tibbs
21 days ago
  • Adjusted Games Lost due to injuries: 27th

I cant think of 5 teams who lost an aaron rodgers level qb for the entire 2023. Was maybe burrow out for a long time? Who else? Herbert missed a large portion, right?