NFL over/unders: Will the New York Jets get lucky again this year?


(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The New York Jets will face the ninth most difficult schedule this season. Here’s Michael Jones of SBNation’s take:

New York’s opponents combined for a .520 win percentage in 2013. Taking on an AFC West which boasted three playoff teams will prove to be a challenge as the division remains largely intact in terms of key players. With the exception of taking on the Patriots and the Green Bay Packers on the road, the rest of the away schedule looks manageable. Three of their last four games of the season are road matches against the Vikings, Titans and Dolphins.

But before they do, the Jets have a few questions to answer. At the top of the list includes figuring out who will be the starting quarterback (Geno Smith or Michael Vick) and the No. 2 wide receiver, plus how to get more turnovers on defense (Gang Green ranked 31 out of 32 teams last season with just 15 takeaways). Those questions, and more, will have to be resolved if the Jets have any hope of going “over” on the seven wins set by the latest Las Vegas Hilton’s futures odds.

On the surface, the over seems like a no-brainer for a team that went 8-8 during the regular season last year, but a closer look reveals the Jets may have had as many as three “lucky” wins last season — the most in the NFL.

Bill James, the noted baseball analyst, popularized a formula to calculate a team’s “true” winning percentage based on runs scored and allowed: (Runs Scored^2) / [(Runs Scored ^2) + (Runs Allowed^2)]. The thinking was teams that outperformed their “true” record got lucky and would regress the following year. For football, we can use Points Scored and Points Allowed with an exponent of 2.53.

Last season, the Jets scored 290 points and allowed 387, so their “true” winning percentage is (290^2.53)/[(290^2.53)+(387^2.53)] = .325. Multiply that by 16 games and we would expect the 2013 Jets, based on their point differential, to win 5.2 games, or three less than they did. And as you can see below, the Jets did indeed have the worst point differential of any team that went 8-8 last season.

Another factor “inflating” the Jets’ record was their performance in games decided by seven points or less, another indicator of good fortune.

It’s tempting to say the Jets are on the upswing, but the reality is the 2013 team was very similar to the 2012 team that won just six games. Go with the under in 2014.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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