If anyone accuses you of being a homer when you mention that the Redskins have been extraordinarily unlucky this year, you can now tell them that your view point is backed up by math.
Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats measures expected wins with his offensive and defensive efficiency metrics, and in this post he calculates the difference between expected wins and actual wins.
Here's his description of "luck":
In my own life, I'm a big believer in hard work, preparation, focus, execution and everything else that isn't luck. Coaches and players can't let themselves think any other way for a single second. But once we account for all those things, what do we call what's left over? Statisticians call it "residual," and a substantial portion of any residual is due to random effect, including sample error and what I call "bunching." In a bounded and meticulously measured system like sports, a vast amount of the residual from any decent model will be due to randomness. A season of 16 games simply isn't long enough for the breaks to even out.
So in other words, there is a certain small probability that your kicker will miss any given 23 yard field goal. If you're really unlucky, that miss just happens to occur when you're playing your best football of the year against an opponent who is going for an undefeated season, and it happens to cause you to lose by... 3 points.
According to Burke's measurements the Washington Redskins are, by a very wide margin, the single unluckiest team in the NFL. They are a stunning 3.4 wins below their expected record - within a sample of only 12 games, that is massive. That's right, with just average luck, the Redskins would be 6-6. In fact the second unluckiest team, Pittsburgh, is 2.3 games under. Still awful, yet about a full game luckier than us.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that the Redskins are a good team that has just had a few bad breaks. They are, however, merely bad rather than horrendous. When poor performance combines with terrible luck, you end up with a nightmare season like this one.
Just think - if the Redskins had 3 or 4 more wins at this point, how different would Jim Zorn's job prospects look? Or Jason Campbell's?