Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

11/13/2009

Turnovers and Effect on Wins In the NFL

Everybody knows that in order to win games, the team that commits fewer turnovers wins the game by a rather large percentage. Here’s how the best regular season teams of the last 5 years have done with turnover differential.

2008 Season (10 Teams at 10-6 or Better)
13-3 Tennessee Titans: +14
12-4 Indianapolis Colts: +9
12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers: +4 (Won Super Bowl)
12-4 Carolina Panthers: +6
12-4 New York Giants: +9
11-5 Baltimore Ravens: +13
11-5 New England Patriots: +1
11-5 Miami Dolphins: +17
11-5 Atlanta Falcons: -3
10-6 Minnesota Vikings: -6

2007 Season (11 Teams at 10-6 or Better)
16-0 New England Patriots: +16
13-3 Indianapolis Colts: +18
13-3 Dallas Cowboys: +5
13-3 Green Bay Packers: +4
11-5 San Diego Chargers: +24
11-5 Jacksonville Jaguars: +9
10-6 Seattle Seahawks: +10
10-6 Pittsburgh Steelers: +3
10-6 Tennessee Titans: +0
10-6 Cleveland Browns: -2
10-6 New York Giants: -9 (Won Super Bowl)

2006 Season (8 Teams at 10-6 or Better)
14-2 San Diego Chargers: +13
13-3 Baltimore Ravens: +17
13-3 Chicago Bears: +8
12-4 New England Patriots: +8
12-4 Indianapolis Colts: +7 (Won Super Bowl)
10-6 Philadelphia Eagles: +5
10-6 New York Jets: +0
10-6 New Orleans Saints: -4

2005 Season (13 Teams at 10-6 or Better)
14-2 Indianapolis Colts: +12
13-3 Denver Broncos: +20
13-3 Seattle Seahawks: +10
12-4 Jacksonville Jaguars: +11
11-5 Cincinnati Bengals: +24
11-5 Carolina Panthers: +16
11-5 New York Giants: +12
11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers: +7 (Won Super Bowl)
11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: +7
11-5 Chicago Bears: +6
10-6 Kansas City Chiefs: +8
10-6 Washington Redskins: +1
10-6 New England Patriots: -6

2004 Season (9 Teams at 10-6 or Better)
15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers: +11
14-2 New England Patriots: +9 (Won Super Bowl)
13-3 Philadelphia Eagles: +6
12-4 Indianapolis Colts: +19
12-4 San Diego Chargers: +15
11-5 Atlanta Falcons: +2
10-6 New York Jets: +17
10-6 Denver Broncos: -9
10-6 Green Bay Packers: -14

Out of the 51 teams that finished with a record of 10-6 or better, only 8 teams (16%) had a negative turnover differential. Only 1 team, the 2008 Atlanta Falcons, finished with a record better than 10-6. There were 20 teams (39%) that had a positive turnover differential in double digits. Only 2 of those teams finished with a record lower than 11-5, the 2004 New York Jets and the 2007 Seattle Seahawks.

The 5 teams that won the Super Bowl had a combined +18 with the 2007 New York Giants being the only SB champion with a TO differential lower than +4.

Worth noting is how the worst teams of the past 5 years have fared…
2006 Oakland Raiders 2-14: -23
2004 San Francisco 49ers 2-14: -19
2008 Detroit Lions 0-16: -9
2005 Houston Texans 2-14: -8
2007 Miami Dolphins 1-15: -7
2008 Kansas City Chiefs 2-14: +5

They combined for a TO differential of -61 with only the 2008 KC Chiefs posting a positive differential. Worth pointing out is that KC lost 7 games by a TD or less, including 2 games by 1 point, both against the San Diego Chargers.

What does that mean for the 2009 NFL Season that’s through Week 9?

8-0 New Orleans Saints: +8
8-0 Indianapolis Colts: +7
7-1 Minnesota Vikings: +5
6-2 New England Patriots: +8
6-2 Denver Broncos: +5
6-2 Cincinnati Bengals: +2
6-2 Dallas Cowboys: +0
6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers: -2
5-3 Philadelphia Eagles: +11
5-3 Atlanta Falcons: +4
5-3 San Diego Chargers: +1
5-3 Arizona Cardinals: -6

Currently it looks like the Arizona Cardinals will be lucky to finish better than 10-6. The Eagles, if they can keep up the TO differential, look to finish with a great record while most of the teams sitting at 6-2 or better look like they all have a good shot at making the playoffs.

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