We’re a quarter of the way into the season, and just eight NFL teams have a winning percentage below .500, while only the Kansas City Chiefs have avoided losing a game at all. Your average NFL team is just that: average. Thirteen teams are 2-2, some of them with a confusing mix of solid wins and atrocious losses.
The New York Jets live on this bubble. Only New York and the New Orleans Saints joined this group of 13 teams by starting 0-2 and pulling off two-game winning streaks. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement, since few among us expected the Jets would pull off a winning streak even that long in 2017.
But the fact is, Gang Green is one of the worst 2-2 teams in the league. Spun more positively, they’re lucky to be .500 and have the same record as the New England Patriots all things considered. Hey, they even could attain a winning record soon because they face the winless Cleveland Browns in Week 5, right? Right, but it’d be wise to temper expectations going forward.
Let’s chart exactly where the Jets stand compared with other 2-2 teams, using the following loose methodology:
- FiveThirtyEight’s Elo Rating (which considers such factors as strength of schedule, home-field advantage, margin of victory and past performance),
- ESPN’s Football Power Index (an efficiency algorithm that includes the aforementioned factors plus factors like distance traveled and starting quarterback absences) and
- Football Outsiders’ total DVOA, defense-adjusted value over average (which compares every play of every game and compares it to a league average, factoring in game situation).
New England (#2 Elo, #2 FPI, #22 DVOA)
Seattle (t-#8 Elo, #4 FPI, #15 DVOA)
Dallas (t-#8 Elo, t-#8 FPI, #21 DVOA)
New Orleans (#12 Elo, t-#13 FPI, #9 DVOA)
Washington (#15 Elo, t-#13 FPI, #4 DVOA)
Minnesota (#18 Elo, #7 FPI, #10 DVOA)
I’m biased against New England and feel outraged that both Elo and FPI still consider the Patriots the second-best team in football, just because their losses came to Kansas City and 3-1 Carolina. The Pats’ defense has been atrocious, even in their wins over New Orleans and Houston. Still, you can’t deny New England is a class above the Jets. All of these teams are.
The rest of the teams in this section also have their warts – they wouldn’t be 2-2 if they didn’t. New Orleans benefits from the algorithms recognizing that neither of their losses to Minnesota and New England were miserable. Washington shockingly has the highest total DVOA of all 2-2 teams, and the Vikings are in the top 10 of two of the three systems. New England’s, Dallas’s and Seattle’s DVOAs are ranked considerably lower than their other two figures, but that’s because DVOA is laser-focused on play outcomes while the other systems consider more external factors.
Oakland (#14 Elo, #11 FPI, #23 DVOA)
Houston (#19 Elo, t-#17 FPI, #7 DVOA)
Jacksonville (#28 Elo, #19 FPI, #8 DVOA)
This is where the methodology churns out some weird results. Jacksonville, for instance, rates in the top 10 of DVOA but hangs near the bottom of Elo. It could be because they lost to the weak Jets and got their two wins over Baltimore and Tom Savage-led Houston; DVOA ignores strength of opponent, but Elo cares about it.
Oakland has lost Derek Carr to injury for at least a few weeks, so we may expect their FPI to hover around the top 10 because that metric accounts for injured QBs. Houston is weird because they look like a much tougher team with Deshaun Watson under center, but their Savage-led Week 1 loss weighs on their ratings.
Arizona (#16 Elo, #26 FPI, #26 DVOA)
Tennessee (t-#22 Elo, #22 FPI, #17 DVOA)
New York Jets (t-#22 Elo, #31 FPI, #25 DVOA)
Baltimore (t-#24 Elo, #25 FPI, #18 DVOA)
While the Jets tie with Tennessee and rate higher than the Ravens on FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings, they’re also the only 2-2 team that doesn’t register in the top 20 of any of the three systems. DVOA isn’t impressed with the Jets from a play-by-play perspective, and the other indexes hint at how the Jets would look on a neutral field against a better opponent than, say, Miami.
Arizona’s Elo feels a little out of sync compared to their other two ratings. Heck, this team’s two wins both came by overtime field goals against weak opponents, Indianapolis and San Francisco. You’d figure that would show up in the FiveThirtyEight algorithm.
What it means for the Jets
We know the New York Jets’ two wins came against weak opponents (Miami, the worst offense in football, and Jacksonville in overtime), much like Arizona’s and Baltimore’s (Cincinnati and Cleveland). That’s part of it. Another part is their offensive DVOA, one of the main factors that make up total DVOA. While New York’s defensive DVOA has reached 4.0 percent, good for 18th in the league, they have an offensive DVOA of -14.7 percent, 24th in the NFL. Translated into English, that means the Jets’ offense is 14.7 percent worse than an average NFL offense by Football Outsiders’ judgment, which sounds pretty accurate.
Don’t let all of this clutter your mind if you just want to root for the Jets to beat the Browns on Sunday (a very doable feat that previously winless teams like Indianapolis and Cincinnati accomplished the past two weeks). Thinking long-term, though, the Jets’ likely don’t stack up against future opponents like Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, Denver – even defenseless New England – just because they’re currently 2-2. That’s good news for the tank-now, draft-later crowd.