Using 2018 NFL Turnover Data to Predict 2019 Success

By Steve Makinen  () 

Turnovers play as big of a role in deciding a football game, or even more so, how a team’s season goes than any other factor. Taking away the obvious variables of quarterback quality, or style of play on defense, while it isn’t automatic by any means, one would think that turnover luck would tend to swing from team-to-team, or by year-to-year. With that in mind, about this time every year, I try to go through the turnover data of NFL teams from the prior season to see if any particular teams could reasonably be predicted to improve or decline in the coming season. I base these judgment on historical data of teams from the last decade. From this study, I think we can make some educated wagers on season win totals for teams as we head into the 2019 season. You’ll find out by reading on that some teams like San Francisco & Oakland could be headed for better days after 2018 struggles, while others like Chicago or Kansas City might be hardpressed to repeat their successes on a year ago.

I’ve broken my analysis down into two parts. The first group of systems covers teams that had negative turnover differentials in the prior season, while the latter group addresses the teams that enjoyed positive turnover ratios. Note that these systems are built using data going back to the 2009 to 2010 season transfer, or in other words, the last nine NFL seasons.

SYSTEMS OF TEAMS THAT HAD A NEGATIVE TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL THE PRIOR SEASON

The following are NFL systems affecting teams that had a negative turnover differential the prior season:

• Three of four teams since 2009 that had a turnover differential of worse than -20 and did not make the playoffs qualified for the playoffs the next season. Cleveland of a year ago was the only team that did not, but still improved by seven wins. Team affected in 2019: San Francisco

• Of the 13 teams since 2009 that had a turnover differential of -1.0 per game or worse, NONE of them had a worse record the next season, improving by 28% outright, or 4.5 wins per season, and 21% against the spread. Teams affected in 2019: San Francisco, Tampa Bay

• All but two of the 18 teams since 2009 that had a negative turnover differential and were outscored by more than 10 PPG improved their won-lost record the next season, by an average of 25%, or 4.1 wins per team. Four of those teams made the playoffs, and 11 of them improved by four or more wins. Teams affected in 2019: Oakland, Arizona

• Since 2009, there have been 29 teams that had negative turnover differential and won less than six games against the spread. All BUT TWO of those improved their ATS winning percentage the next season, by an average of 20%. All but five of these teams improved their outright winning percentage as well, by an average of 18%, and seven of them qualified for the playoffs. Teams affected in 2019: San Francisco, Jacksonville, NY Jets, Oakland

• Since 2009, there have been 91 teams with a turnover differential of -5 or less in a season, and of those, only 10 reached the postseason. In the follow-up season, 21 of those 91 made the playoffs, including four of those 10 that made it in back-to-back years. Teams affected in 2019: San Francisco, Tampa Bay. Arizona, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, NY Jets, Philadelphia, Oakland, Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore

• Six of the L8 teams that had a negative turnover differential but positive score differential and didn’t make the playoffs did so the next season, including Dallas in 2018. Teams affected in 2019: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tennessee

• There have been 14 teams since 2009 that had a negative or even turnover differential yet still managed to win double-digit games against the spread. Eight of those teams reached the postseason the next year, although Carolina did not in 2018. Team affected in 2019: NONE

• The last five teams that qualified for the playoffs by winning double-digit games despite a negative turnover differential failed to return to the postseason the next year. The win total of these teams decreased by 4.4 per team. Tennessee was one of these teams a year ago. Teams affected in 2019: Philadelphia, Baltimore

• Of the 21 teams that improved their won-lost percentage by 34% or more from one season to the next since ‘09, all but four had negative or even turnover differentials the prior season. Teams potentially affected in 2019: San Francisco, Tampa Bay. Arizona, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, NY Jets, Philadelphia, Oakland, Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore, Tennessee, Minnesota, Green Bay

SYSTEMS OF TEAMS THAT HAD A POSITIVE TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL THE PRIOR SEASON

The following are NFL systems affecting teams that had a positive turnover differential the prior season:

• Only three of the L13 teams since 2009 that had a turnover differential of 1.0 or better per game improved its record the next season. The average won-lost percentage decline was 9% (8% ATS), or about two wins per season. Teams affected in 2019: NONE – Seattle had best TO Diff with 16 in 17 games

• Only six of the 26 teams since 2009 that had a positive turnover differential and who outscored opponents by more than 8.0 PPG improved their won-lost record the next season. The average won-lost percentage decline was 11% (11% ATS), or about 2.6 wins per season. Teams affected in 2019: Kansas City, New Orleans, Chicago

• Teams that had a positive turnover differential and won 10 or more games against the spread are FADE teams in the next season. Of these 56 teams since 2009, 40 of them had wonlost-records that declined, by an average of 12% outright and 13% against the spread. Furthermore, of the 52 that reached the playoffs, 23 failed to do so the follow-up season. Teams affected in 2019: New England, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, LA Chargers, Seattle, Cleveland

• Since 2009, there have been 31 teams with a turnover differential of 5 or better in a season and failed to reach the postseason. Only 10 reached the postseason the next year and only 12 improved their records. These are typically play against teams as failing to reach the playoffs does not provide for momentum the next season. Teams affected in 2019: Cleveland, Washington, Denver, Miami

• Only four of the L23 teams that had a positive turnover differential but negative score differential qualified for the playoffs in the next season, including Buffalo and Indianapolis last year. Teams affected in 2019: Carolina, Atlanta, Denver, Cleveland, NY Giants, Washington, Cincinnati. Miami

• Only four of the L23 teams that had a positive turnover differential and won seven or fewer games against the spread in a season reached the playoffs the next season, and only nine improved. Teams affected in 2019: Houston, Carolina, Denver, Atlanta

• There have been six teams that have gone 7-9 or worse in a season despite a positive turnover differential and scoring differential, FIVE of them have turned around the next season and made the playoffs, improving by an average of 4.2 wins per season. Team affected in 2019: Unfortunately, no teams qualify for this in 2019, as Carolina was closest, with a 7-9 record, 1 TO Diff, and -0.4 PPG Scoring Differential.

• Of the 10 teams that declined their ATS wonlost percentage by 31% or more from one season to the next since ‘09, ALL had positive turnover differentials of 4 or better the prior season. Teams potentially affected in 2019: Seattle, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, LA Rams, New England, New Orleans, Cleveland, Denver, Washington, Miami

back to news

FREE Email Sign-Up

Get the latest sports betting news & VSiN programming updates with this free daily email from VSiN, The Sports Betting Network.

Headlines

View All

custom-banner-3
VSiN Logo Plus

Free Trial

Make a risk-free bet on VSiN!

VSiN+ FREE TRIAL

  • Afternoon subscriber-only email with highlights and best bets from the day's programs
  • Point Spread Weekly, VSiN's digital magazine on sports betting
  • 24-7 Live video stream of VSiN programs plus replays
  • Any special sport-specified betting guides we do
  • All exclusive subscriber-only stories and data on VSiN.com
Sign Up Now
Google Play
App Store
Close