The 8 Luckiest NFL Teams on Any Given Sunday

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Whether it’s getting “jobbed” by the referees, shanking a kick at the worst possible moment, or watching championship hopes disappear as a star player crumples to the field in season-ending agony, luck is the ultimate deity in the NFL. Just ask the 2013 Houston Texans (too soon?). It inspires rituals, routines, and Bud Lite advertisements. It also inspires econ professors to try and figure out which teams have been the luckiest teams in NFL History since the AFL/NFL Merger.

And, courtesy of the great folks at, we have exactly that. Andrew Healy, who teaches at Loyola Marymount University when he’s not blogging about football, broke down which teams were expected to win championships, which teams ended up winning championships, and which teams ended up winning more (and less) than they were expected to — that last bit is, essentially, luck in sports. The mystical becomes the mathematical. But how?

In Healy’s words: “[I've] rerun the NFL playoffs. In the simulations, the slate is wiped clean, which means there’s no reason The Fumble or The Helmet Catch or The Immaculate Reception have to happen this time around. The playoffs were run under the rules in place in a given year. All of the results are based on 50,000 simulations run under those rules. DVOA ratings are used for 1989 and estimated DVOA from 1950-1988. I created a betting line based on the DVOA difference between the teams, adding 2.5 points for home field. That line was used to simulate wins and losses.”

Make sense? No? Read on, and all will be illuminated.

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