Luck is part of wins and losses in the NFL.
There are people who don’t want to talk about it. There are people who don’t want to acknowledge that the oblong ball bounces randomly, and luck is a factor in football even more so than in other sports. When you have a sport that plays a larger number of games and has two teams compete in a playoff series instead of a playoff game, sample size for determining the “best team” increases, which reduces randomness. But one game is frequently the difference between going home and advancing in football, and one bounce of the ball can determine a game. As such, luck (while it can’t be acted upon in any meaningful way by a team) should be acknowledged.
The 2022 Buffalo Bills have been objectively unlucky.
In a chart produced by NFL Football Operations Data Scientist Tom Bliss, he outlined how a few luck-based factors (dropped interceptions, dropped passes by the offense, field goals made or missed by the opponent, and fumble recoveries) have helped or hurt teams through Week 12 in the National Football League. It’s of little surprise that teams that are believed to be overachieving (New York Giants, Washington Commanders, Minnesota Vikings) are shown at the top of the below chart. The fact that teams that are considered “contenders” like the Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, and Kansas City Chiefs are at the bottom speaks to luck being such a great equalizer in the sport.
It’s important to note that this chart doesn’t even get into the luck regarding injuries. Buffalo has had great injury luck over the last few seasons, but in 2022, regression to the mean has occurred, and the Bills finds themselves in an unlucky position in this chart created by Ben Brown of Pro Football Focus:
The fact that the Bills can be on the wrong sides of both of these charts and be sitting at 8-3 on the year is important context to the up-and-down nature of the NFL regular season, where each game is (understandably) the beginning and end of the mood around a team for that given week. Knowing that there’s randomness injected into the game, and seeing it quantified, can help calm the nerves of any anxious fan base with the knowledge that some things are simply out of the team’s control.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!