2008 Luckiest Teams

Here's the final ranking of lucky and unlucky teams for 2008. I estimate team luck by using my efficiency regression model to calculate each team's expected wins--how many wins a team can normally expect, on average, given their actual performance in offensive and defensive running, passing, turnovers, and penalties. Expected wins are adjusted for average opponent strength.

The difference between the expected wins and actual wins is what I loosely estimate as team luck. For a brief introduction on the concept, see this last post on the subject. For a more thorough but general discussion, see this essay on NFL luck. The executive summary is that there are good and bad breaks for every team in every game, and often they'll roughly even out, but many times they won't. The bottom line is that a 16-game season is far too short for all the breaks to even out. With 32 teams in the league, some are going to be luckier than others.

Tennessee, New England, and the New York Jets top the list of lucky dogs in 2008, while San Diego, Kansas City, and New Orleans appear to be among the unluckiest.

Now, I don't claim this is all luck. Part of it could be game-day coaching. For those critics out there of Norv Turner or Andy Reid, you can point to this and say they managed to take teams with some of the most spectacular statistical performances and make mediocre records. You could also make the opposite claim about Jeff Fisher or Bill Belichick.

Also of note are the 0-16 Detroit Lions. They could have been expected to win 1 or 2 games given their stats this year.

You can click on the headers any column to sort the table. I've included a division column so you can see how teams lucked-out compared to their division-mates.

RankTeamExp. WAct. WLuckDiv
1 TEN10.513+2.5AS
2 NE8.911+2.1AE
3 NYJ7.09+2.0AE
4 SF5.27+1.8NW
5 BUF5.37+1.7AE
6 MIN8.410+1.6NN
7 IND10.612+1.4AS
8 NYG11.012+1.0NE
9 HOU7.08+1.0AS
10 CLE3.14+0.9AN
11 MIA10.111+0.9AE
12 ARI8.29+0.8NW
13 DEN7.58+0.5AW
14 BAL10.511+0.5AN
15 PIT11.912+0.1AN
16 JAX4.950.1AS
17 CHI9.090.0NN
18 OAK5.15-0.1AW
19 TB9.19-0.1NS
20 CIN4.74.5-0.2AN
21 DAL9.39-0.3NE
22 CAR12.512-0.5NS
23 ATL11.511-0.5NS
24 SEA4.54-0.5NW
25 STL2.82-0.8NW
26 DET1.80-1.8NN
27 WAS10.08-2.0NE
28 GB8.56-2.5NN
29 PHI12.19.5-2.6NE
30 NO10.78-2.7NS
31 KC4.92-2.9AW
32 SD11.48-3.4AW

  • Spread The Love
  • Digg This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Stumble This Post
  • Submit This Post To Delicious
  • Submit This Post To Reddit
  • Submit This Post To Mixx

10 Responses to “2008 Luckiest Teams”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Tennessee, New England, and the New York Jets top the list of lucky dogs...

    Magnini's not feeling so lucky now.

    After beating/getting lucky against Tennessee to reach 8-3 people were proclaiming the Jets "best in conference!" -- which they never never were, not even close after last year's 4-12 and with a very weak schedule.

    The reason people keep giving for firing him is that after that 8-3 he failed to meet the expectations that had been set for a top team, it "collapsed" ... "How could the best team become the worst in the last five games???"

    But if they'd lost say the Tenn and overtime NE games (in which they were underdogs) to be 6-5, then, and then won the SF and Sea games (in which they were favorites) to close at the same 9-7, there'd have been no collapse, the W-L would be +5 from the prior year, and Mangini would in all probability still be coaching out his contract if not with an extension.

    So one could say random variability, an unfortunate bunchings of wins and losses, got him fired.

    Of course, one could also say Favre got him fired in those last five games by performing with a 55 passing rating and 2-to-9 td-pick ratio.

    Boy, were you right in calling him overrated! I told people but they didn't listen.

    They still aren't. Favre is a great qb, far better than Popgun Pennington, we know that, so if Popgun so outplayed him it can only be because the coach grossly misused him, another reason Mangini must go ... but I digress.

  2. Brian Burke says:

    So true. Except I'd say that Favre was a great QB. He'll always be a great competitor in my book, but whether it was age or the shoulder injury, he was far from great.

  3. Pacifist Viking says:

    Have you examined luck across multiple seasons? For example, by Pythagorean expected wins, the '07 Vikings were 1.5 under, and the '08 Vikings were .8 over. I'm just wondering if 32 games significantly increases the odds of evening out the breaks.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, Favre should have stayed retired after last year. I sure hope he retires this time. He clearly can't play at the level he used to play at any more. Still, I'm sure as a Packers fan I'll be getting asked "aren't you mad they let Favre go?" for the next several years. Why would I be mad? Compare Rodgers' stats to Favre's, he's clearly the better quarterback. Favre was better in his prime but Rodgers is better right now.

  5. Brian Burke says:



    Not exactly what you're looking for, but it's close. My theory was that with enough years of data, the luck component in a coach's total residual would tend to even out, leaving his own game-day contribution as a result.

  6. Anonymous says:



    Chart showing Indy's yearly results, both Pyth and actual. When teams are on a bullish trend (improving) they typically outperform Pyth (interpreted to mean "good luck") and vice-versa when on a bearish trend.

  7. Daniel says:

    Now that we have had some clarification in the playoffs (through two rounds) this graph has some VERY interesting things to say and I offer some reasonable explanations.

    All the "lucky" teams that made the playoffs struggled and are out: Tenn, Minn, Indianapolis, NYG.

    The one "unlucky" team that made the playoffs is doing well: Eagles. (exception: ATL)

    The rest of the teams are playing fine, but someone has to lose every game.

    An interesting concept though is which teams are "punching more than their weight" in the playoffs: The eagles. And which teams are doing less that a true heavyweight: the Titans and Giants.

    Essentially this says that even though some teams have inflated or deflated records, they can't play above or below what their true record should be.

  8. Anonymous says:

    luck has little to do with anything if your a good team play hard and win.

  9. Anonymous says:

    "luck has little to do with anything if your a good team play hard and win."

    Unless the other team is also a good team that plays hard to win.

    Then the being-good-and-playing-hard parts cancel each other out to a significant degree, and chance-contingency-luck become a big part of the picture.

  10. parker says:

    Not that anyone will see this but it seems that the unlucky teams were bad in short yardage or the red zone while the lucky teams were proficient in both.

Leave a Reply

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.