Yes, so, the FO special teams ratings currently have the Jets fifth. It's one of the reasons we have the Jets ranked higher than pretty much anyone else. And yes, the Jets lead the league in special teams turnovers. So what's the explanation?
It's twofold. First, there are more categories of special teams than just returns. The Jets have been excellent on both kickoffs (third) and punts (sixth) this year.
Second, just like we do with offense and defense, the FO special teams stats count all fumbles equal. And the Jets have had miserable luck recovering special teams fumbles this year.
There are two kinds of special teams fumbles: regular fumbles and muffs. We count these differently because muffed punts (and the rarer muffed kickoffs) are recovered by the return team much more often than fumbles that take place after the return has actually started. Except, apparently, by the 2011 Jets.
The Jets have four muffed punts. The opposition has recovered three of them. The rest of the league has 37 muffed punts, and the opposition has recovered only six of them.
On kickoffs, only one muffed kickoff has been recovered by the opposition this year. That muffed kickoff was by the Jets. In general, half of all fumbled kick returns are recovered by the opposition. The Jets lost both their fumbles. So in general, we're penalizing the Jets for these muffs and fumbles much less than they're actually hurting the Jets on the field. The punt returns are still lousy. The Jets are averaging 8.3 yards per punt return, 24th in the NFL. Add in the fumbles (including two fumbles the Jets have recovered themselves) and they rank dead last in our punt return metric. But the kick returns are fine. The Jets are averaging 26.8 yards per kick return, fifth in the NFL. Because of the specifics of how long certain kick returns have gone, they rank second in our kick return metric.
Anyway, add this together with the fact that they're average on field goals, and the Jets have one of the better special teams units in the league despite all the fumbles. You simply can't expect this many fumbles to be recovered by the opposition going forward, which means eventually the good returns (at least, the good kick returns) should be more apparent and should result in better field position.
Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 07 Dec 2011
Another thing I'll add: I don't think the Jets fumble and fumble recovery woes were simply limited to Special Teams.
I was just perusing the NFL.com team statistics from last year... The Jets only recovered 36% of their total fumbles last year. Only 3 teams recovered a fewer percentage of their fumbles.
Will this change next year? Who knows, but I will say that this was one of a billion things last year that frustrated me as a fan. I guess the lesson to be learned is: Don't turn it over so much! Then the team's percentage of fumbles recovered won't matter as much.
I read an article on FO after the 2010 season that said that since Rex Ryan took over, we had recovered the highest % of fumbles in the NFL. They were wondering when that would regress to the mean, because all of the research they've even done says that fumbles always average out to 50/50, given a large enough sample.