The New York Jets were unlucky in 2021
Yesterday I analyzed the New York Jets’ incredible bad luck on fumble recoveries during the 2021 NFL season. While researching the topic, I came across a few more statistical categories in which the Jets endured brutal luck, so I wanted to put them all together to answer this question: were the Jets the toughest team? luckiest in football last year?
We’ll look at three facets of football in which teams have little or no control over the outcome: fumble recovery percentage, opposition 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.
Breakaway Recovery Percentage
While we were down yesterday, the Jets actually did a phenomenal job avoiding fumbles offensively and forcing fumbles defensively. Their fumbles margin of +12 ranked 2nd in the NFL, as they had just 14 fumbles compared to their opponents’ 26.
However, the ball rarely bounced in the direction of the Jets when it broke free. Despite their excellent margin of total fumbles, the Jets lost the same number of fumbles as their opponents (7 each). The Jets recovered just 35.0% of all available fumbles, which ranked 2nd worst in the league.
Percentage of opponents’ field goals
Opponent field goal kicks are probably the most luck-based category in the NFL. With the exception of the unique blocked kick, there is nothing a team can do to diminish the effectiveness of the opposing kicker.
The Jets were extremely consistently kicked last year. Their opponents made 36 of 39 field goal attempts, a conversion rate of 92.3%, which ranked 4th highest in the league.
That number is partly due to the Jets’ poor defense allowing a lot of short field goals that were easier to make. Only two of the 39 attempts were over 50 yards and the average distance was 35.9 yards, which is below the 2021 NFL average of 38.6.
Either way, the Jets just didn’t get as many breaks as they should have. New York’s enemies were automatic on giveaways, going 23 of 24 on kicks from under 40 yards. They even went 11 of 12 on kicks from 40 to 49 yards.
Ah yes, the crown jewel of luck in sports: injuries.
Football Outsiders tracks a statistic called “Adjusted Games Lost” (AGL) which estimates the total number of games missed due to injury suffered by a team. The stat also takes into account the role of injured players; in other words, a team’s AGL stat will be more severely impacted when starters miss games than when substitutes miss games.
In 2021, the Jets fought a gruesome 158.5 AGL total, ranking 2nd worst in the NFL behind only the Ravens (191.2). That’s 81% higher than the average NFL team AGL in 2021, which was 87.7.
Round it all together
Was there an NFL team that fared as badly in all three categories as the Jets? Let’s find out.
The Jets ranked 2nd worst in FR%, 4th worst in opponent FG% and 2nd worst in AGL. This is an average ranking of 2.7 between the three categories.
Yes, that was the NFL’s worst average ranking in those three categories — by far. The second-worst team was the Browns, who had an average rating of 7.3.
Here’s how the league fared in these three luck-based stats – remember, the higher the rank (the lower the number), the worse the luck:
|bad luck ranking||Tm||Avg Rk||EN%Rk||OPP FG%Rk||AGL Rk|
|1||New York Jets||2.7||2||4||2|
|5||New York Giants||10.3||17||8||6|
|seven||Washington football team||11.0||24||2||seven|
|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 in the bottom four in even just two categories, while the Jets placed in the bottom four in all three.
Jets fans will also be pleased to see that their three AFC East rivals enjoyed luck in 2021. The Dolphins tied the Cowboys for best luck in those three categories with an average rating of 25.3. The Patriots ranked fifth with 22.7 while the Bills were sixth with 22.0. Those teams are due for a little more misfortune in 2022, while the Jets are due for better luck.
We’ll see how the pendulum decides to swing in 2022. Each season is another random dice roll; it is never guaranteed that a team will have the opposite level of luck from the previous season. A team can be very lucky or extremely unlucky for two consecutive seasons or even more than that. It happens.
All we know for sure is this: The Jets lost a ton of points on the scoreboard due to factors beyond their control.