NFL 2023 Luck Quotient Chart

In The NFL It’s Better To Be Lucky Than Good. Or Is it?

When it comes to luck in the NFL we can boil it down to two old addages:

  • It’s better to be lucky than good.
  • Good teams make their own luck.

So which is it?  Let’s try to use some statistics and metrics to see which NFL teams have been the luckiest and unluckiest, and see if there is an addage that fits the 2023 season.

Read More: NFL 2023 – Referees & Penalties – Midseason Review

NFL 2023 Luck Quotient Chart

NFL 2023 Luck Quotient Chart

The Luck Quotient

The Luck Quotient will be a measurement of how lucky or unlucky each NFL team has been thus far in 2023.  The one luck component I could not add was the effect of injuries.   Clearly it would be unlucky to lose your starting QB for the year, while remaining relatively injury free would be lucky for any team.

Unfortunately, I could not find a free source that listed all injuries by all teams in terms of man games lost.  I know the stats exist, but NFLLINES always limits statistics and metric to publicly availble stats.  If it were possible to add in the injuries metrics, we could do something where we assign value for starters, substitute and partial game injuries.  Unfortunately this will have to wait until such stats become available to all.

Luck Quotient metrics will either count for their full value, 1/2 their value, 1/4 of their value, or a flat 0.50 or 0.25 StDev units.  With that in mind, here is the list of metrics I chose for the Luck Quotient:

Full Value Metrics
  • FG %
  • Opponent Fumble Recovery %
  • Interceptions thrown
Half Value Metrics
  • Punt return avg
  • Kick return average
0.50 StDev units per occurance
  • Returned Fumble for TD
  • Returned Interception for TD
  • Recorded a Safety
Quarter Value Metric
  • Extra Point %
0.25 StDev units per occurance
  • Punt return TD
  • Kick return TD

The Weighted Metrics

Field Goal %, Opponent fumble recovery %, and Interceptions thrown are full value metrics because they all involve change of possession.  They are also all things that involve huge swings in Expected Points.  Had the FG snuck through, the fumble recovered or the interception dropped, the win probability for each team would shift significantly or dramatically(if it happens late in a game).  Thus these 3 occurances are when luck probably has its greatest influence on the game.

Punt return average and kick return average were set to half value.  A team with special teams that can change the net punt yardage or start drives post kickoff beyond their own 25 involves some luck.  I hate to say it but most of that luck is probably the avoidance of a penalty during the play.  The other portion of luck is probably a bad angle or two taken by a coverage man and then a good block, particularly one that effects more than one coverage man.

NFL Opponent Fumble Recovery % 2018 -2023
NFL Opponent Fumble Recovery % 2018 -2023

Standardized Scoring vs Flat Scoring

When a team’s defense scores via fumble return, interception return or records a safety, they will be awarded 0.50 StDev.  While the safety scores considerable less, it does come with possession of the ball allowing for the potential for a total of 5 or 8 points dependent on the ensuing possession.  While not as rare as punt/kick returns for TD, these defensive scores are uncommon enough that we need to avoid using the standardize method for scoring them.   By awarding flat StDev we also do not cap a team’s ability to be lucky in this metric.  If a team ends up with a total of 8 of these score they will receive 4 luck points, far more than they would if we standardized the metric.

Extra Point % is set as a quarter value metric.  These are rare misses, but they do often affect the type of score needed next.  However the overall influence of 1 point on a game should be fairly negliable as long as it doesnt happen late when the point is to tie, win or get to a one score game.  In addition, we don’t want to overly award or punish a teams luck quotient by having the difference between 100% XP% and 93 XP% be several StDev units.

The final inputs are the kick returns TD and punt returns for TD.  Becuase these are so rare(4 Punt TD and 2 Kick TD in 2023 so far), they cannot be scored by StDev units.  The few teams that have one would get a lot of points and all the teams that didnt would score lower.  Thus the decision was to grant a flat 0.25 StDev points for any punt or kick return for touchdown.  This adds luck points to those teams without punishing the vast majority of teams that do not have one.

A fair argument would be, Why are punt/kick return TDs worth less than a defensive score.  My thought was the punt/kick return TDs come as a result of a known possession.  The team knows it is receiving a punt or kickoff and is getting the ball.  The punt or kickoff return simply does the offense’s job for them in a single play.  Conversely, when a defense scores, it is not with the knowledge or anticipation of possession.  The score happens without implied possesion, thus it is luckier.  Is that the greatest and most logical defense of this inequity?  Probably not, but we need to start somewhere and this is the somewhere I picked.

The Luckiest & Unluckiest  NFL Teams in 2023

After we total up the scores for each metric, we are left with the final Luck Quotient for each team.  Only 3 teams scored over 3.0:  Dallas(3.74), Houston(3.16), and Tampa Bay(3.06).

Dallas scored 2.5 of their 3.74 luck points from defensive returns for TD and a safety.  Houston has a Kickoff return TD, but no defensive scores, and Tampa has a Interception return for TD.  If we eliminated luck points for defensive scores, Houston would be the Luckiest team(3.16), followed by Tampa bay(2.54) and LA Chargers (2.46).

At the other end of the Luck spectrum, New England(-3.67), Buffalo(-2.70), and LA Rams(-2.28) are the three unluckiest teams.  If we eliminated defensive scores, New England(-3.17) would still be the unluckiest, but the Rams(-2.28), would flip spots with the Bills (-2.20), and the Vikings(2 defensive scores) would drop & tie for 3rd unluckiest(-2.20).  Both the Patriots & Bills have 1 defensive score, while the Rams have zero.  So their unluckiness extends to their defensive scoring prowess as well.

One statistical oddity, note the Denver Broncos Punt and Kick return units.  Punt return avg of 20.7 yds and kick return avg of 33.6 yds with a TD.  Now surely that kick return average is inflated due to the TD return, but the punt return average is also off the charts.  Gold Stars to the Denver kick/punt return unit and coach for their performance in 2023 so far.

The other unusual tidbit, Green Bay’s opponents only recovering 18.75% of fumbles so far. The lowest value for that I could find since 2018 was the 2021 Arizona Cardinal’s opponents recovered only 30.51% of fumbles & 2019 New Orleans Saints’ opponents recovered only 30.77% of fumbles. The ball is bouncing the Packers way so far.

Is It Better To Be Lucky Than Good, Or Do Good Teams Make Their Own Luck?

The record for each team is listed in the final columns of the Luck Quotient chart.  And the answer at least for 2023 is pretty clear.

  • The 8 Luckiest NFL teams in 2023 have a combined record of 36 – 36 (.500).
  • The 8 Unluckiest NFL teams in 2023 have a combined record of 29 – 50 (.367).
  • If we combine the 8 luckiest and 8 unluckiest teams, those 16 teams have a combined record of 65 – 86 (.4305).
  • The 16 teams with average luck have a combined record of 86 – 65 (.5695).

Thus, good teams make their own luck, at least in 2023.

Good luck might get you the last playoff spot.  Bad luck and you are headed for the top 10 in the 2024 draft. But if you are a good team and everything comes out in the wash as far as luck is concerned, you have a good chance of making the playoffs.

As with all the ratings and analysis, feel free to chime in via the post on Reddit/r/nfl, Practicalist on Reddit, or by sending an email.  Until next week, enjoy the football and best of luck to your team.