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The bad and good luck of the 2019 Jets

New York Jets v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Certain areas of the NFL come down to randomness or luck more than skill. These areas can have a major impact on a team’s performance in a given season.

In this league, wins and losses are all that matter. But bad luck in the areas of randomness could indicate that a team’s actual quality differs from its record. These factors could clue us into what the next year will hold.

A team with a good record this season that got lucky in certain areas is a prime candidate to regress next season. A team with a bad record that has been snakebitten in these areas could be a sleeper candidate the following year when things even out.

Let’s take a look at the Jets’ luck in 2019.

Fumble Luck

I think most of us would agree that fumble recovery isn’t a skill players can learn. Showing hustle is a way a player can increase his odds, but most fumble recoveries just come down to the bounce of the ball and the players who happen to be in the area.

A fumble can have a major impact on the outcome of a game. Teams that recover an inordinate amount of fumbles in a season can win multiple games as a result. That luck is unlikely to continue. Conversely, the team that fails to recover most of its fumbles will likely have better next the next season.

How do the Jets rate in 2019? keeps track of fumble recovery rate. The Jets have recovered only 40.48% of fumbles this season. That ranks 30th in the league.

Digging a little deeper, the Jets on offense have recovered 52.94% of their fumbles. That puts them at 15th in the league, right around the middle of the pack. On the other side of the ball, however, the Jets have only recovered 32% of fumbles. That is all the way down at 30th.

Verdict: The Jets have been unlucky. This bodes well for 2020.


You can argue player conditioning and a team’s medical staff play a role in preventing injuries, but football is a physical game. Random injuries happen. Every team is affected by them, but some are affected more than others each season.

I think some of the discussion about Jets injuries has gone a bit overboard. In particular I mean the talk about the amount of salary the Jets have on players on injured reserve. Many of those players are unproductive and were overpaid by Mike Maccagnan. Their cap hit does not reflect their true value. Still these players were starters for a reason. Even bad starters are generally better than their backups so an injury makes the team worse.

In any event, there isn’t much debate that the Jets have been hit hard by injuries this season.

Verdict: The Jets have been unlucky. This bodes well for 2020.

Point Differential/Close Game Record

Many say the mark of a great team is coming through in the clutch and figuring out how to win close games. Football Outsiders has done extensive research through the years that shows this isn’t really the case. The sign of a great team tends to be blowing out the opposition consistently.

The great 49ers coach Bill Walsh touted the virtue of the blowout victory. In a game decided by one score or less, an unlucky play can cost you the game. Somebody can slip on a route. An official might blow a call. An opponent might make a spectacular play your guy just can’t defend.

In games with lopsided scores, you can still win when these things happen.

The logic is pretty clear when you think about it. Who is the best team this year? The record can tell you that. Who will be the best team next year? You’ll have to look elsewhere.

Imagine Team A and Team B were both 10-6 the year before. Team A won all of its games by 14 points. Team B won all of its games by 1 point and was undefeated in such games.

Which team is more likely to have success the following season? It is obviously Team A. Odds are Team B will have less luck in 1 point games next year. At some point there will be an unlucky play that leads to a late touchdown. For Team A, that means the margin of victory might be cut to 7. For Team B, that will swing the game.

This is why point differential is a good indicator of future performance. It treats the entire season as one big game. It is also why scores in one possession games is worth examining. A team with a great or terrible record is likely going to see things even out the following season.

Right now the Jets have the 7th worst point differential in the NFL at -96. They happen to hold the 7th spot in the NFL Draft.

The team’s record in one score games is 3-2 so there hasn’t been any drastic good or bad luck.

Verdict: The Jets’ luck has been neutral in this area.

Red Zone Performance

This might be controversial, but Football Outsiders has found that red zone performance tends to be random from year to year. Offensive performance on other areas of the field is more consistent and a better indicator of future performance.

If your offense is bad in the red zone, odds are it will improve next season. That means more points. A bad red zone defense this season will likely improve and allow less points next year. The inverses are true for good red zone teams. (Does anybody remember the red zone beast that was Mark Sanchez in 2011?)

In any event the Jets have been near the middle of the league in red zone efficiency on both offense and defense. Their 58.62% touchdown rate ranks 14th on offense, and their 57.78% touchdown rate ranks 18th on defense.

Verdict: The Jets’ luck has been neutral in this area.


Every team in the NFL plays 16 games, but the quality of opponents varies wildly.

According to Tankathon, Jets opponents only have a .473 win percentage this season. That ties the Jets for the eighth easiest schedule in the league.

Furthermore, the Jets have had the benefit of facing all four teams currently occupying the top four Draft slots (with two games against number 3 Miami). Three of their five wins in 2019 have come against this group.

With a 3-2 record, the Jets only sport a .600 winning percentage against these teams. The rest of the league has a .889 winning percentage vs. the four (excluding the games they have played against each other).

That probably says something about where this Jets team rates relative to the rest of the league.

Verdict: The Jets have been lucky. This doesn’t bode well for 2020.


According to this criteria, the Jets have been unlucky in two areas, have had neutral luck in two areas, and have been lucky in one area.

The big picture conclusion seems fair to me. On the whole, the Jets have probably had more bad luck than good. Still, luck can’t explain away the entirety of the team’s 5-9 record.

A team with a bad record and bad luck in four or five of these areas might be a covert good team ready to bounce back in a big way the next season.

The Jets seem more like a deeply flawed team whose issues have been magnified by a bit of bad luck.