NFL Picks: Close Look at Turnover Differential As We Head to Week 4

Swinging Johnson

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 8:37 PM UTC

Wednesday, Sep. 30, 2015 8:37 PM UTC

If there is one statistic that NFL coaches obsess about it would have to be turnover differential. Fumbles and interceptions can make or break a season, so we examine this statistic closely and use it as a guide to our NFL picks going forward.

Teams in the Black

  1. Denver Broncos +6

  2. New York Jets +5

  3. New York Giants +5

  4. Buffalo Bills +5

  5. Carolina Panthers +4

  6. New England Patriots +3

  7. Green Bay Packers +3

  8. Minnesota Vikings +3

  9. Arizona Cardinals +3

  10. Philadelphia Eagles +2

  11. Cincinnati Bengals +2

  12. Atlanta Falcons +2

  13. Seattle Seahawks +1

It is not surprising to see that every undefeated team in the NFL, of which there are seven, is on this list. It is also not a shocker that 10 of 13 of the aforementioned teams have a record above .500. Of those three teams that sit at 1-2 we can easily see the Eagles and Seahawks ending the season above .500 and at least one, namely the Seahawks, should be playoff bound. As for the Giants, well, the future is uncertain.

But the number that sports bettors are concerned with above all else is ATS (Against The Spread) percentage and if you examine the teams that fall in the plus category vis a vis turnover differential you will find that 11 of 13 have covered the NFL odds in each game or at least in two of three.

Show me a team that causes fumbles and does not produce them and I will show you a team that I will bet on more often than not. Here is a stat that resonates with head coaches. Games played from 2002-2013: if a team was +1 in the turnover margin they were 69.6% likely to win the game. Teams that were +2 were 83.9% to win. Finally if a team was +3 that number soared to 90.7%. What’s even more staggering is that the turnover margin is 41.9% of a team’s win variance. This trumps all other statistical categories like strength of opponent, points scored, points allowed and all the other factors that play into the chances of winning. Yes, it is that important and it is the very reason why teams that preach maintaining possession and causing turnovers are those that win. It should also be a relevant statistic when you are determining your NFL picks week after week.


Bottom Feeders
When you think of the most disappointing team thus far in the early going which team pops into your mind? Ah, the Indianapolis Colts you say! Well, it’s not so coincidental then that the underachieving Colts are a -7 and at the very bottom of the league in the turnover margin category. Who is residing in the basement with the luckless Colts? Glad you asked. I turn your attention to the Washington Redskins (-5) and San Francisco 49ers (-4). Both teams are 1-2 and lucky to be so.

Now before we get too carried away let us not forget that fumbling and interceptions happen to even the best players on the planet. Tom Brady throws picks and Jamaal Charles fumbles. Sometimes a clean pass thrown to a streaking receiver can hit said receiver right in the numbers, bounce off his chest and into the open arms of startled defender. Stuff happens and that’s why they play the games. On any given Sunday in the NFL a weak sister can defeat a powerhouse. It doesn’t happen often but when you factor in the NFL odds all those miscues can give a big boost to a big underdog.

In closing, take a look at how the Miami Dolphins, for example, have fared from 2006 to 2014 in terms of turnover margin. Their turnover differential is in parentheses.

2006: 13th

2007: 23rd

2008: 1st (Playoff Appearance)

2009: 26th

2010: 29th

2011: 24th

2012: 24th

2013: 18th

2014: 14th

As you can clearly see the one year in which they broke the top ten and soared to number one was in 2008 and again, not so coincidentally, it was the only year of the nine that the Dolphins made the playoffs. Turnover differential is not just a coach’s concern anymore. Smart NFL gamblers know that this is a concern for them as well.

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