NFL Week 1 Bad Beat Rankings: Unluckiest Results Include Patriots, Bears, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Geno Smith (left), Justin Fields (center) and Mac Jones.
Every week of the 2023 NFL season, we’ll recap how our NFL Luck Rankings fared and take a look at some of the unluckiest results in our new NFL Bad Beat Rankings.
In case you haven’t seen — or as a reminder if you have — we’re reframing the discussion around bad beats. so be sure to check out the science behind our NFL Bad Beat Rankings.
For a quick synopsis, we're looking at expected scores and comparing them to actual scores. We're not saying the team that suffered the bad beat should have won, just that the scoreline was quite unflattering compared to their expected performance given the game situations they encountered.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at a wild Week 1 in the NFL.
Top NFL Bad Beats of Week 1
Win probability swings indicate the difference in win percentage between how teams actually performed vs. how the final score indicates they performed
1. New England Patriots (+3.5)
- Actual Result: Eagles 25, Patriots 20
- Expected Score: Patriots 25, Eagles 13
- Swing: 17 points, 45.5% win probability
With just some basic box score browsing, we can see the Patriots had the better stats. They out-gained the Eagles 382-251, had 24 first downs to the Eagles' 17, and they had a greater percentage of plays with a positive EPA (38.1%-36.9%).
The real bad luck came on Darius Slay's 70-yard interception return touchdown in the first quarter to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead. In that game situation, the Patriots were expected to score an average of just over two points on that drive. Instead, they gave up seven, creating a swing of more than nine points.
Additionally, the Eagles made all four of their field goals, with three of them coming from 48 yards out or longer. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott has been right around an average kicker over his NFL career, and the expectation based off the distance and other factors was to make around 2.9 of them. That added an additional 3.3 points over expectation for the Eagles.
The Patriots also had three drives end on downs in the Eagles' territory, including two that reached the red zone.
Put all of that together, and that's how the Patriots went from putting together a winnable performance to not even covering the 3.5 points they were being given.
2. Chicago Bears (-1)
- Actual Result: Packers 38, Bears 20
- Expected Score: Packers 21, Bears 19
- Swing: 16 points, 29.9% win probability
Here's a case of a bad beat where the Bears were the team suffering the bad beat, yet they neither should have won, nor should they have covered. Instead, Chicago suffered a bad beat just in the context of the scoreboard.
The 18-point loss to the Packers was quite unflattering when the expectation was to lose this game by just two points. That matters when handicapping because if oddsmakers and bettors are weighing the margin of victory incorrectly and not accounting for luck, they'll overvalue the Packers moving forward and undervalue the Bears.
Fumble luck was a major factor for the Packers, as they recovered all three of the game's fumbles — one by Justin Fields and two of the Packers' own fumbles.
Certainly, Quay Walker's interception return for a touchdown was also a huge swing above expectation in favor of Green Bay. Run that game situation over 10,000 times, and that doesn't happen very often.
One final hidden factor was the Bears' failure to convert on fourth-and-1 from their own 40-yard line on the first drive of the game. That left Jordan Love with a short field, where he ultimately found Romeo Doubs for an eight-yard touchdown. If the Bears convert that, who knows how things would have been different?
3. Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
- Actual Result: Rams 30, Seahawks 13
- Expected Score: Rams 26, Seahawks 22
- Swing: 13 points, 29.2% win probability
Much like the Bears, the Seahawks shouldn't have won, let alone covered. However, from a betting perspective, the Seahawks look a lot worse to the casual fan thanks to a scoreline that's worse than it should have been.
This is no more evident than in the success rate of the two teams. The Seahawks actually had a higher overall success rate than the Rams. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, that mostly came on the ground (66.7% Success Rate) in smaller chunks than in the all-important passing game (42.9%).
That success also mostly came in the first half, where the Seahawks reached at least the Rams' 23-yard line on all four drives. Ultimately, they only converted that into 13 points instead of just under 18 expected.
In the second half, the Seahawks also had a drive start at their own 35. On first down, Geno Smith hit Colby Parkinson for an eight-yard gain to get within seven yards of midfield. Then it all unraveled. DK Metcalf was hit with a 15-yard taunting penalty and then Smith was sacked, losing a combined 17 yards on the two plays. Those kinds of things can happen, but they're all pretty infrequent events that all got strung together at a terrible time costing the Seahawks most of the rest of their expected score for the game.