Finding the Winning Factors - Turnovers

[UPDATE] We've had a lot of post for today. So, I placed most of the cool stuff in this post after the jump so we can conserve space on the frontpage. Be sure to rec this. It's on of mgrex03's best. --bbs

This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at a very common stat:  Turnovers. This stat is talked about over and over when talking about winning, but are the "experts" correct when they say turnovers (or lack thereof) are crucial to winning? Here's the obvious calculation:

Interceptions + Fumbles

Mind blowing mathematics there.  I actually looked at a few rate stats with respect to Turnovers, such as Turnovers / Yard Gained, or Turnovers / Drive (which I included in the tables), but none of them were better predictors than just raw Turnovers, so we'll go with that.  Occam's Razor wins again.

I went back to 2001 to see how teams do.  That means I'll be looking at 4,080 games over the past 8 years.  I did this calculation for every game, then found the overall average for a game.  I then went back and compared every game to this average, and found wins/losses based on being above or below average.

Let's get to the numbers...

  • The Overall Average Turnovers / Game over the past 8 years is 1.76.  That means causing just 2 Turnovers in a game makes your defense Above Average.  I was expecting it to be just slightly over 2, so I guess offensives have been doing a better job protecting the football than expected. 
  • The best team since 2001?  The Jaguars, with an average of 1.406 Turnovers/Game, just barely edging out the 2nd best team, the Colts, who have an average of 1.414 Turnovers/Game.  It's actually just 1 less turnover over the past 8 years (180 to 181).  After Week 1, I hope the Colts have passed them up.
  • Defensively, the Bears and Ravens are tied at #1, with an average of 2.01 Turnovers/Game.  They've each caused 257 Turnovers over the past 8 years.  That's pretty good.  How about the Colts?  8th best at 1.86 Turnovers/Game.  That's better than the Steelers, Titans, and Eagles.  This is one of the best categories for the Colts' defense, and one I expected them to be high up on.
  • So how often do teams win when they are Above Average on Offense (Having 0 or 1 TO in a game)?  1370-651-1, which is 67.8%.  That's the 2nd best we've seen so far.  Pretty damn good.  Having an Above Average defense (causing 2+ TOs in a game) produces a record of 1387-668-3, which is 67.5%, which is a slightly worse than the offense, but still excellent. Turnovers really do lead to Wins and Losses.
  • When both the Offense and Defense are Above Average, their record is 912-193-1, or 82.5%.  This ranks 3rd out of 12 stats so far, only behind ANY/A and Drive Success Rate.  Not turning the ball over, and causing Turnovers, is, like many "experts" say, key to winning games.
  • How about just winning the Turnover battle?  Teams that have less TOs than their opponent are 1307-335-2, or 79.6%.  So 4 times out of 5 if you win the Turnover battle, you win the game.  Not bad.  The Colts are 54-6 when they win the Turnover battle.
  • There is no sense going over the best game since 2001, as many teams have had 0 TOs in a game.  But I can certainly look at the worst.  Week 7 in 2001, the Rams turned the ball over 8 times against the Saints, and lost 34-31.  Eight Turnovers, and they still scored 31 points?  That Rams offense was pretty good.  The worst Colts games was the 6 INT game vs. the Chargers in 2007, but I bet everyone here knew that.
  • The Colts have fumbled the ball the 2nd fewest times (73), and caused the 3rd most fumbles (109).  Coach Dungy preached it, and the players lived up to it.  Hopefully those things don't change.
  • In terms of Net Turnovers over the past 8 years, the two teams tied at the top, with 57 more caused turnovers, are the Colts and Patriots.  In other news, water is wet.  As we've seen with the other stats that lead to lots of wins, these two teams are always at the top.

So what did we learn today?  The "experts" are right when they say that teams who limit turnovers, and cause turnovers, win games.  Just remember, a broken clock is still right twice a day.

Unfortunately, this will have to be the last stat looked at for this offseason.  Life has gotten in the way (an unexpected move), so I won't have time to write up the last 3 stats in the table below.  I have run the numbers though, and none of them are that great.  I've included the summary numbers so that you can take a look at how all of them stack up.  Here goes:

Statistic Average Off Win% Def Win % Off/Def Win %
ANPY/A 5.338 70.3% 70.7% 89.10%
Yds/Play 5.095 62.2% 61.6% 77.4%
RZ Eff 65.6% 59.3% 60.6% 69.7%
RB Success 45.6% 54.8% 54.5% 59.0%
Yds/Drive 28.36 63.2% 63.6% 81.5%
ToP/Drive 2:39.3 65.4% 65.3% 79.6%
DSR 69.1% 66.5% 65.4% 89.14%
Yds/Carry 4.125 52.8% 52.2% 55.0%
3rd/4th Down 39.1% 62.6% 61.8% 75.1%
Turnovers 1.76 67.8% 67.5% 82.5%
Avg Start Pos 31.20 65.0% 62.8% 72.9%
Plays/Drive 5.503 57.6% 57.7% 66.7%
Net Punting Average 37.90 51.2% 51.6% 53.0%
Penalty Yds / Play 0.822 54.3% 55.2% 60.8%
First Downs/Drive 1.62 61.0% 61.2% 76.4%
3 & Outs 3.92 58.8% 57.4% 69.9%

 

I'm going to write up a summary article sometime in the next 2 weeks or so, where I'll have where the Colts rank in each one of these categories (Real short summary: Offense Good, Defense Not so Good), and I'll talk about how I'm going to use this to predict games.

After the jump you'll see the offensive and defensive numbers for each team, as well as Win/Loss records when going above/below the league average.  Click on the headers to sort.  Here's a link to the last 5 years worth of data.  There's not much of a difference, especially since it only took out 3 years worth of data.

Here are the Offensive/Defensive Numbers...

Team Offense Defense
INTs Fumbles TOs Drives TO/Drive INTs Fumbles TOs Drives TO/Drive
Jaguars 92 88 180 1412 0.127 129 76 205 1401 0.146
Chargers 113 76 189 1425 0.133 143 88 231 1481 0.156
Eagles 107 96 203 1517 0.134 121 108 229 1514 0.151
Patriots 103 87 190 1395 0.136 154 93 247 1431 0.173
Chiefs 124 75 199 1444 0.138 127 100 227 1441 0.158
Colts 108 73 181 1311 0.138 129 109 238 1331 0.179
Titans 119 89 208 1486 0.140 138 92 230 1471 0.156
Seahawks 122 85 207 1472 0.141 129 98 227 1480 0.153
Jets 122 69 191 1340 0.143 131 88 219 1365 0.160
Buccaneers 115 96 211 1466 0.144 161 91 252 1464 0.172
Falcons 120 90 210 1455 0.144 130 103 233 1454 0.160
Redskins 104 110 214 1482 0.144 121 77 198 1468 0.135
Broncos 135 77 212 1439 0.147 109 99 208 1419 0.147
Giants 128 90 218 1478 0.147 116 99 215 1485 0.145
Steelers 130 83 213 1429 0.149 134 100 234 1425 0.164
Panthers 137 96 233 1510 0.154 146 106 252 1504 0.168
Bengals 147 79 226 1447 0.156 137 105 242 1441 0.168
49ers 132 105 237 1486 0.159 129 83 212 1442 0.147
Packers 147 92 239 1488 0.161 147 94 241 1496 0.161
Bears 142 108 250 1555 0.161 147 110 257 1590 0.162
Raiders 124 110 234 1449 0.161 118 72 190 1470 0.129
Bills 128 105 233 1435 0.162 113 88 201 1418 0.142
Dolphins 137 104 241 1479 0.163 129 100 229 1459 0.157
Texans 114 86 200 1227 0.163 87 71 158 1219 0.130
Saints 134 107 241 1460 0.165 111 100 211 1448 0.146
Ravens 125 124 249 1507 0.165 168 89 257 1537 0.167
Cowboys 157 95 252 1499 0.168 114 96 210 1491 0.141
Vikings 138 110 248 1458 0.170 137 88 225 1447 0.155
Lions 168 83 251 1474 0.170 107 107 214 1462 0.146
Cardinals 153 107 260 1474 0.176 124 96 220 1479 0.149
Browns 164 100 264 1464 0.180 153 76 229 1451 0.158
Rams 173 117 290 1473 0.197 123 110 233 1452 0.160
Total 4162 3012 7174 46436 0.154 4162 3012 7174 46436 0.154

Here are the Win/Loss records of teams when they go above/below average:

Team Offense Defense
Above Average Below Average Above Average Below Average
Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct
Patriots 64 8 0 0.889 33 23 0 0.589 63 5 0 0.926 34 26 0 0.567
Steelers 62 7 0 0.899 23 35 1 0.398 53 14 1 0.787 32 28 0 0.533
Colts 69 10 0 0.873 22 27 0 0.449 60 16 0 0.789 31 21 0 0.596
Chargers 50 22 0 0.694 21 35 0 0.375 48 18 0 0.727 23 39 0 0.371
Packers 52 9 0 0.852 23 44 0 0.343 50 20 0 0.714 25 33 0 0.431
Cowboys 43 14 0 0.754 23 48 0 0.324 39 23 0 0.629 27 39 0 0.409
Eagles 51 23 0 0.689 30 23 1 0.565 53 13 0 0.803 28 33 1 0.460
Ravens 42 13 0 0.764 29 44 0 0.397 57 17 0 0.770 14 40 0 0.259
Seahawks 44 15 0 0.746 27 42 0 0.391 47 18 0 0.723 24 39 0 0.381
Jets 46 24 0 0.657 16 42 0 0.276 40 20 0 0.667 22 46 0 0.324
Broncos 51 14 0 0.785 23 40 0 0.365 42 18 0 0.700 32 36 0 0.471
Rams 28 15 0 0.651 32 53 0 0.376 47 28 0 0.627 13 40 0 0.245
Dolphins 38 22 0 0.633 23 45 0 0.338 48 17 0 0.738 13 50 0 0.206
Panthers 33 20 0 0.623 31 44 0 0.413 48 22 0 0.686 16 42 0 0.276
Bears 41 22 0 0.651 28 37 0 0.431 51 23 0 0.689 18 36 0 0.333
Giants 43 23 0 0.652 25 37 0 0.403 41 17 0 0.707 27 43 0 0.386
Titans 48 15 0 0.762 22 43 0 0.338 52 20 0 0.722 18 38 0 0.321
Falcons 40 25 0 0.615 22 40 1 0.357 45 23 1 0.659 17 42 0 0.288
Buccaneers 47 26 0 0.644 19 36 0 0.345 51 21 0 0.708 15 41 0 0.268
Saints 44 15 0 0.746 16 53 0 0.232 44 18 0 0.710 16 50 0 0.242
Chiefs 40 32 0 0.556 19 37 0 0.339 37 28 0 0.569 22 41 0 0.349
Vikings 39 19 0 0.672 22 48 0 0.314 40 22 0 0.645 21 45 0 0.318
Bills 40 25 0 0.615 12 51 0 0.190 35 21 0 0.625 17 55 0 0.236
Jaguars 49 28 0 0.636 13 38 0 0.255 38 23 0 0.623 24 43 0 0.358
Browns 28 22 0 0.560 21 57 0 0.269 32 32 0 0.500 17 47 0 0.266
49ers 39 21 0 0.650 15 53 0 0.221 37 24 0 0.607 17 50 0 0.254
Bengals 36 29 1 0.553 18 44 0 0.290 39 23 1 0.627 15 50 0 0.231
Redskins 45 24 0 0.652 13 46 0 0.220 33 23 0 0.589 25 47 0 0.347
Cardinals 37 16 0 0.698 12 63 0 0.160 38 24 0 0.613 11 55 0 0.167
Raiders 31 31 0 0.500 14 52 0 0.212 28 25 0 0.528 17 58 0 0.227
Texans 26 25 0 0.510 14 47 0 0.230 26 16 0 0.619 14 56 0 0.200
Lions 24 37 0 0.393 7 60 0 0.104 25 36 0 0.410 6 61 0 0.090
Total 1370 651 1 0.678 668 1387 3 0.325 1387 668 3 0.675 651 1370 1 0.322

And finally, Win/Loss records when the offense is above average, and the defense holds the other team below average:

Team Above Average Below Average
Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct
Patriots 42 1 0 0.977 12 19 0 0.387
Ravens 33 1 0 0.971 5 28 0 0.152
Steelers 37 2 0 0.949 7 23 0 0.233
Seahawks 29 2 0 0.935 9 26 0 0.257
Colts 46 2 0 0.958 8 13 0 0.381
Falcons 31 4 0 0.886 8 21 0 0.276
Packers 35 4 0 0.897 8 28 0 0.222
Titans 36 6 0 0.857 6 29 0 0.171
Eagles 32 5 0 0.865 9 15 1 0.380
Giants 25 6 0 0.806 9 26 0 0.257
Chargers 34 7 0 0.829 7 24 0 0.226
Rams 24 6 0 0.800 9 31 0 0.225
Broncos 26 5 0 0.839 7 27 0 0.206
Saints 29 4 0 0.879 1 39 0 0.025
Jaguars 27 6 0 0.818 2 21 0 0.087
Bears 26 6 0 0.813 3 20 0 0.130
Jets 32 8 0 0.800 8 30 0 0.211
Texans 16 5 0 0.762 4 36 0 0.100
Bills 27 8 0 0.771 4 38 0 0.095
Dolphins 26 10 0 0.722 1 38 0 0.026
Bengals 23 6 1 0.783 2 27 0 0.069
Cardinals 28 6 0 0.824 2 45 0 0.043
Vikings 26 7 0 0.788 8 33 0 0.195
Buccaneers 37 11 0 0.771 5 26 0 0.161
Panthers 24 9 0 0.727 7 31 0 0.184
Cowboys 26 6 0 0.813 10 31 0 0.244
Browns 19 4 0 0.826 8 29 0 0.216
49ers 29 6 0 0.829 7 35 0 0.167
Chiefs 25 11 0 0.694 7 20 0 0.259
Raiders 19 9 0 0.679 5 36 0 0.122
Redskins 25 9 0 0.735 5 32 0 0.135
Lions 18 11 0 0.621 0 35 0 0.000
Total 912 193 1 0.825 193 912 1 0.175
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