2019 Lookback: Luckbox Donkies

Don't be a donkey - Callum Herries - Medium

The NFL season is long gone. Quarantined and bored, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the 2019 season to see which teams were luckboxing into their 2019 win total, and which teams were unlucky as well.

The NFL season is short. Like, extremely short. Wins and loses can easily come based on fluke plays, and as a result wins themselves end up having a lot of variance. If we’re looking at betting win totals, we should understand which teams ended up with more or less wins than we’d expect from the previous season.

The below table looks at a few different items
-2019 win/loss record
-Estimated Wins from footballoutsiders. This is a FO stat that uses their homegrown DVOA and other factors to project wins.
-Pythagorean wins — this is a win projection based on point differential
-Fumble Recovery — fumble recovery has been proven to be a luck based stat. Teams that recover a high rate of fumbles are inherently lucky, and since that can massively sway games, I thought it was important to include it for additional context.

(Note: this table looks like trash. I’m bad at web design. I’m not sorry. If you’re viewing on mobile, rotate your phone to see the entire table).

TEAM W L T Estm. Wins Pyth Wins Win Dif (Pyth) Win Dif (EST) Fum
Recov
Rank
GB 13 3 9.9 9.8 3.2 3.1 43.24%        26
SEA 11 5 10.9 8.2 2.8 0.1 53.57%          9
HOU 10 6 7.3 7.8 2.2 2.7 59.09%          4
NO 13 3 12.8 10.9 2.1 0.2 69.23%          1
OAK 7 9 7.4 5.2 1.8 -0.4 50.00%        16
NYJ 7 9 6.4 5.6 1.4 0.6 42.00%        29
MIA 5 11 3 3.6 1.4 2 47.62%        17
SF 13 3 12 12 1 1 45.76%        20
JAX 6 10 6.5 5.3 0.7 -0.5 42.86%        28
BAL 14 2 13 13.4 0.6 1 56.10%          7
CHI 8 8 7.7 7.4 0.6 0.3 53.57%        10
KC 12 4 12.1 11.6 0.4 -0.1 46.94%        18
PIT 8 8 7.3 7.6 0.4 0.7 58.73%          5
BUF 10 6 7.7 9.8 0.2 2.3 52.94%        12
LAR 9 7 9.1 8.8 0.2 -0.1 52.50%        13
PHI 9 7 9.2 8.8 0.2 -0.2 50.91%        14
CAR 5 11 3.9 4.9 0.1 1.1 43.90%        25
DEN 7 9 6.6 6.9 0.1 0.4 59.46%          3
CLE 6 10 6.2 6.4 -0.4 -0.2 41.94%        30
ATL 7 9 7.6 7.5 -0.5 -0.6 44.19%        22
IND 7 9 7.4 7.7 -0.7 -0.4 44.12%        24
WAS 3 13 4.5 3.7 -0.7 -1.5 50.00%        15
MIN 10 6 10.4 10.8 -0.8 -0.4 62.07%          2
TEN 9 7 9.4 9.9 -0.9 -0.4 58.14%          6
ARI 5 10 1 7.1 6 -1 -2.1 40.62%        31
NE 12 4 12.3 13.1 -1.1 -0.3 44.19%        23
TB 7 9 7.1 8.2 -1.2 -0.1 56.00%          8
NYG 4 12 4 5.3 -1.3 0 46.67%        19
CIN 2 14 4.3 4.3 -2.3 -2.3 44.44%        21
LAC 5 11 5.8 7.8 -2.8 -0.8 35.14%        32
DAL 8 8 11.2 10.9 -2.9 -3.2 52.94%        11
DET 3 12 1 6 5.9 -2.9 -3 42.86%        27

Some takeaways
-Both Pythagorean and FO see Houston and Green Bay as luck boxes. Both stats think Green Bay won 3 more games than they should have, and both stats think Houston won 2 additional games. Houston finished 4th in fumble recoveries, which could partially explain their luck.
-Both stats point to Detroit, Dallas, and Cincinnati as being unlucky. For the Bengals, we might argue that they were actually lucky, since they ended up with the first overall pick.
-Pythagorean believes the Chargers were unlucky. A reddit user actually found that their record improves from  5-11 to an absurd 12-3 if the result of every one score game is flipped.
-FO doesn’t see the Saints as being lucky, but Pythagorean does. They also recovered 69% of their fumbles, which is absurd. Second in the league was Minnesota at 62%. I think we can conclude that they were lucky.

That’s it for now, bitches.

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