Jul 082012
 

Anyone who follows football knows how big a part of the game that parity is. One team can be good one year and bad the next and vice versa for seemingly no reason. This series, called Predicting Parity, seeks to discover why that is and figure out how to predict it. One statistic, turnovers/takeaways, also seems to have a tremendous amount of parity on a yearly basis and since there is a strong correlation between turnovers and wins, this has a lot to do with parity.

The following chart shows teams since 2002 with 20 or fewer turnovers.

Team Year Turnovers Turnovers next Change in wins AVG Turnovers AVG Turnovers next Difference AVG Change in Wins
San Francisco 2002 17 25 -3 16.63888889 26.27777778 -9.638889 -2.694444444
Kansas City 2002 15 18 5
Jacksonville 2002 15 31 -1
Oakland 2002 19 26 -7
NY Jets 2002 19 20 -3
Kansas City 2003 18 27 -4
Indianapolis 2004 17 18 2
NY Jets 2004 16 34 -6
San Diego 2004 18 26 -3
Cincinnati 2005 18 24 -3
Denver 2005 16 27 -4
Indianapolis 2005 18 18 -2
Jacksonville 2005 16 22 -4
Seattle 2005 15 33 -4
San Diego 2006 14 24 -3
Indianapolis 2006 18 19 1
St. Louis 2006 18 37 -5
Atlanta 2006 19 24 -3
Washington 2006 15 29 4
New England 2007 15 21 -5
Indianapolis 2007 19 17 -1
Miami 2008 13 29 -4
Tennessee 2008 17 31 -5
Indianapolis 2008 17 24 2
NY Giants 2008 13 31 -4
Carolina 2008 19 31 -4
Washington 2008 17 28 -4
Green Bay 2009 16 22 -1
Minnesota 2009 18 37 -6
Dallas 2009 19 30 -5
San Diego 2009 17 29 -4
New England 2010 10 17 -1
Pittsburgh 2010 18 28 0
Kansas City 2010 14 28 -3
Atlanta 2010 17 21 -3
Tampa Bay 2010 19 40 -6
San Francisco 2011 10 ? ?
Green Bay 2011 14 ? ?
New England 2011 17 ? ?
Cleveland 2011 19 ? ?

As you can see, there have been 36 teams since 2002 with 20 or fewer turnovers. In their next season, those teams, have had, on average, 9.64 more turnovers and won 2.69 fewer games. Of those 36 teams, only two either had the same amount or fewer the next year. Those two teams were both the Colts. The Colts also were the only team to have 20 or fewer turnovers 5 times so they look like an outlier. That’s makes sense since they had one of the most consistent quarterbacks of the decade. If you take out Indianapolis’ 5 times, the increase in turnovers jumps to 10.97 and decrease in wins jumps to 3.19.

That’s good news for the Patriots and Packers, two teams who had fewer than 20 turnovers last year, who have very strong quarterbacks. For San Francisco and Cleveland, however, this is bad news for their offense so they are unlikely to be as efficient as they were last year. Cleveland added players such as Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson this offseason so that should cancel out the decrease in efficiency, but San Francisco could easily see a significant decrease in wins after tying the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season last year.

 

 

The following chart shows teams since 2002 with 35 or more turnovers.

Team Year Turnovers Turnovers next Change in wins AVG Turnovers AVG Turnovers next Difference AVG Change in Wins
Carolina 2002 40 31 4 38.07142857 28.33333333 9.73809524 1.607142857
Washington 2002 40 28 -2
Minnesota 2002 41 24 3
St. Louis 2002 45 39 7
Chicago 2002 35 29 3
Arizona 2002 35 36 -1
Cincinnati 2002 36 22 6
Pittsburgh 2002 35 28 -4.5
Baltimore 2003 38 23 -1
NY Giants 2003 38 24 2
St. Louis 2003 39 39 -4
Arizona 2003 36 29 2
San Francisco 2004 40 34 2
Cleveland 2004 40 27 2
Miami 2004 42 30 5
Chicago 2004 37 28 6
Tampa Bay 2004 36 23 6
Dallas 2004 37 27 3
St. Louis 2004 39 37 -2
Oakland 2004 35 23 -1
New Orleans 2005 40 21 7
Green Bay 2005 42 32 4
Arizona 2005 35 29 0
St. Louis 2005 37 18 2
Oakland 2006 43 37 2
Detroit 2006 38 36 4
Pittsburgh 2006 35 22 2
Cleveland 2006 39 29 6
Baltimore 2007 40 21 6
Houston 2007 37 32 0
Oakland 2007 38 23 1
Arizona 2007 36 30 1
St. Louis 2007 37 31 -1
Detroit 2007 36 29 -7
San Francisco 2008 35 24 1
Detroit 2009 41 25 4
Arizona 2009 36 35 -5
NY Giants 2010 42 24 -1
Carolina 2010 37 23 4
Minnesota 2010 37 26 -3
Buffalo 2010 39 30 2
Arizona 2010 35 32 3
Washington 2011 35 ? ?
Philadelphia 2011 38 ? ?
Tampa Bay 2011 40 ? ?

One thing that stands out is the 42 teams who’ve had 35 or more turnovers since 2002 have had 28.3 turnovers on average the next season. That’s only 2 turnovers more than the 26.3 averaged by the 36 teams with 20 or fewer turnovers. If that doesn’t prove that turnovers are unpredictable on a yearly basis, I don’t know what does. Those 42 teams have averaged 9.74 fewer turnovers the next season and won 1.61 more games. It’s not as significant of a difference in wins as it is with teams with fewer than 20 turnovers, but it’s still notable. It’s also notable that turnovers, in general, are pretty unpredictable on a yearly basis.

Teams done in by turnovers in 2011, like Washington, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay, have major sleeper potential in 2012. Philadelphia also finished significantly worse than their Pythagorean Expectation and won their final 4 games. They could have a huge year in 2012. Washington upgraded the quarterback position and should be much better this year, especially after failing to meet their Pythagorean Expectation last year. Tampa Bay was on the 1st list in 2010 when they won 10 games and had fewer than 20 turnovers. Last year they had more than 35 and won 4 games. They should be somewhere in the middle this season.

The following chart shows teams since 2002 with 20 or fewer takeaways.

Team Year Takeaways Takeaways next Change in wins AVG Takeaways AVG Takeaways next Difference AVG Change in Wins
Buffalo 2002 19 18 -2 18.28947368 25.81578947 -7.5263158 1.407894737
Cincinnati 2002 20 24 6
Chicago 2003 20 29 -2
NY Jets 2003 20 33 4
Denver 2003 20 20 0
San Diego 2003 20 33 8
Buffalo 2003 18 39 3
Denver 2004 20 34 3
Oakland 2004 18 19 -1
Green Bay 2004 15 19 -6
St. Louis 2004 15 23 -2
New Orleans 2005 19 19 7
Green Bay 2005 19 27 4
Oakland 2005 19 23 -2
New England 2005 18 32 2
Houston 2005 19 19 4
Tennessee 2005 15 28 4
New Orleans 2006 19 23 -3
Houston 2006 19 25 2
Washington 2006 12 24 4
Tampa Bay 2006 19 35 5
Carolina 2006 20 30 -1
Philadelphia 2007 19 29 1.5
Jacksonville 2008 17 25 2
Denver 2008 13 30 0
Washington 2008 18 17 -4
Atlanta 2008 18 28 -2
Seattle 2008 20 23 1
Detroit 2008 20 23 2
San Francisco 2008 18 33 1
Washington 2009 17 27 2
St. Louis 2009 20 26 6
Cleveland 2009 19 28 0
Oakland 2009 20 24 3
Denver 2010 18 18 4
Miami 2010 19 19 -1
Jacksonville 2010 18 28 -3
Houston 2010 18 27 4
New Orleans 2011 16 ? ?
St. Louis 2011 18 ? ?
Arizona 2011 19 ? ?
Cleveland 2011 20 ? ?
Miami 2011 19 ? ?
Denver 2011 18 ? ?
Indianapolis 2011 17 ? ?
Pittsburgh 2011 15 ? ?

The change isn’t as significant here, but the 38 teams who have managed 20 or fewer takeaways since 2002 have had 7.53 more takeaways and won 1.41 more games. That means that top-10 scoring defenses like Pittsburgh (#1), Cleveland (#5) and Miami (#6) could be even better this season. The Steelers won 12 games last year and had the league’s best scoring defense despite the fewest amount of takeaways in the league. That’s impressive and bodes well for the future. Meanwhile, as poor as Cleveland’s and Miami’s offenses are, their defenses will win them some games. If Matt Moore or David Garrard can game manage like Matt Moore did late last year (6-6 as a starter), they could be a decent team.

Arizona had a middle of the pack defense last year (17th) and while they could improve, their inconsistencies at quarterback, as well as a poor offensive line, will make their offense struggle. They greatly exceeded their Pythagorean Expectation last year on the strength of a 4-0 record in overtime. They could easily be among the worst in the NFL this year. New Orleans was also middle of the pack (13th). Their missing guys thanks to BountyGate, but they also added some guys in free agency so they could be an improved defense to match their amazing offense. If their offense can remain amazing in spite of the loss of Sean Payton, they should be among the best in the NFL again.

Denver, Indianapolis, and St. Louis all had among the worst defenses in the league last year, 24th,  28th, and 26th respectively. Denver’s poor defense was part of the reason why they had a Pythagorean Expectation significantly lower than their record. Their offense will be improved with Peyton Manning coming in and while their defense figures to be a little better, that will once again be a weakness this year.

Indianapolis and St. Louis, meanwhile, were the league’s worst two teams last year, but they have reason to be optimistic this season. Indianapolis has a strong draft class headlined by Andrew Luck, who likely solidifies the most important position on the field. Meanwhile, St. Louis should have better health than last year and added players like Cortland Finnegan and Scott Wells in the offseason.

The following chart shows teams since 2002 with 35 or more takeaways.

Team Year Takeaways Takeaways next Change in wins AVG Takeaways AVG Takeaways next Difference AVG Change in Wins
Green Bay 2002 45 32 -2 38.08333333 27.5 10.5833333 -2
Tampa Bay 2002 38 33 -5
Philadelphia 2002 38 26 0
Atlanta 2002 39 31 4.5
New Orleans 2002 38 27 -1
St. Louis 2003 46 15 -4
New England 2003 41 36 0
San Francisco 2003 37 21 -5
Minnesota 2003 35 22 -1
Kansas City 2003 37 21 -6
Miami 2003 36 25 -6
Carolina 2004 38 38 4
Seattle 2004 35 24 4
Indianapolis 2004 36 29 2
Buffalo 2004 39 30 -4
New England 2004 36 18 -4
Cincinnati 2004 36 43 3
Minnesota 2005 35 36 -3
NY Giants 2005 37 28 -3
Carolina 2005 38 20 -3
Cincinnati 2005 43 24 -3
Chicago 2006 43 33 -6
Minnesota 2006 36 31 2
Baltimore 2006 37 23 -8
San Diego 2007 48 24 -3
Indianapolis 2007 37 26 -1
Cincinnati 2007 35 24 -2.5
Tampa Bay 2007 35 30 0
Detroit 2007 35 20 -7
Green Bay 2009 40 32 -1
Philadelphia 2009 38 34 -1
New Orleans 2009 39 25 -2
Carolina 2009 37 29 -6
Chicago 2010 35 31 -3
Pittsburgh 2010 35 15 0
New England 2010 38 34 -1
San Francisco 2011 38 ? ?
Green Bay 2011 38 ? ?

As was the case with turnovers, the difference between average takeaways by teams who had previously had 35 or more and by teams who had previously had 20 or less is minimal. Teams with 35 or more had 27.5 in their next season and teams with 20 or fewer had 25.8 in their next season. I’ll repeat it, it’s very tough to predict turnover totals on a yearly basis. Teams with 35 or more have had 10.58 fewer turnovers and 2 fewer wins in their next season.

Two familiar teams here, San Francisco and Green Bay. Green Bay had fewer than 20 turnovers and more than 35 takeaways. That could be a sign of a regression, but if anyone can keep up a low turnover rate, it’s Aaron Rodgers (and Tom Brady). Defensively, meanwhile, they’ll have to play better this year as they won’t be able to rely solely on the turnover as much in 2012. They added three good rookies, Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, and Casey Hayward to help them play better, but they could be worse than the 19th rated defense they had last year. They also greatly exceeded their Pythagorean Expectation last year, but they have the ultimate trump card: the quarterback. They probably won’t win 15 games again, but 12 or 13 is definitely possible.

San Francisco, meanwhile, could be in some trouble. They don’t have an elite quarterback like the Packers so it’s highly unlikely they’ll even be remotely close to the mere 10 turnovers they had last year, fewest all time. Defensively, they have a lot of talent, but suffered almost no injuries on that side of the ball last year and had so many players with breakout years. If they have a few injuries and a few guys regress defensively, it’ll be noticeable. They won’t be bad defensively, but they probably won’t be the 2nd rated scoring defense they were last year. They figure to be noticeably worse than the 13-3 they were last year.

The following chart shows teams since 2002 with turnover differentials of +15 or better.

Team Year Turnover Diff Turnover Diff Next Change in wins AVG Turnover Diff AVG Turnover Diff Next Difference AVG Change in Wins
Green Bay 2002 17 0 -2 18.45 2.1 16.35 -2.3
Tampa Bay 2002 17 2 -5
Kansas City 2002 16 19 5
Kansas City 2003 19 -6 -6
New England 2003 17 9 0
Indianapolis 2004 19 11 2
NY Jets 2004 17 -10 -6
San Diego 2004 15 -6 -3
Cincinnati 2005 25 5 -3
Denver 2005 18 2 -4
Baltimore 2006 15 -17 -8
San Diego 2007 24 4 -3
Indianapolis 2007 18 9 -1
New England 2007 16 1 -5
Tampa Bay 2007 15 4 0
Miami 2008 17 -8 -4
Green Bay 2009 24 10 -1
Philadelphia 2009 15 9 -1
New England 2010 28 17 -1
Pittsburgh 2010 17 -13 0
Green Bay 2011 24
San Francisco 2011 28
New England 2011 17

This is basically combining things. Turnover differential is basically just takeaways minus turnovers. Teams with differential of +15 have had a differential 16.35 points lower and won 2.3 fewer games the following season. We see some usual suspects here. Green Bay, San Francisco, and New England. Green Bay and New England are better off because of their quarterbacks so while they might not combine for 28 wins next year, they should be among the best in their respective conferences. San Francisco, as I’ve gone into, could be in some trouble.

The following chart shows teams since 2002 with turnover differentials of -15 or worse.

Team Year Turnover Diff Turnover Diff Next Change in wins AVG Turnover Diff AVG Turnover Diff Next Difference AVG Change in Wins
Cincinnati 2002 -15 2 6 -17.94736842 1.368421053 -19.3157895 2.578947368
Minnesota 2002 -18 11 3
St. Louis 2002 -19 7 5
Buffalo 2003 -16 10 3
NY Giants 2003 -16 4 2
Dallas 2004 -15 -1 3
San Francisco 2004 -19 -10 2
St. Louis 2004 -24 -14 -2
Miami 2004 -17 0 5
Oakland 2004 -17 -4 -1
New Orleans 2005 -21 -2 7
Green Bay 2005 -23 -5 4
Oakland 2006 -20 -11 2
Baltimore 2007 -17 13 6
San Francisco 2008 -17 9 1
Denver 2008 -17 7 0
Detroit 2009 -18 4 4
Jacksonville 2010 -15 5 -3
Buffalo 2010 -17 1 2
Tampa Bay 2011 -16

The opposite of the last chart, but similar results. These are teams with turnover differentials of -15 or worse since 2002. Those teams have had a differential 19.3 points better in their next season and won 2.58 more games. Further proving that takeaways and turnovers vary on a yearly basis is the fact that the teams with differentials higher than +15 and teams with differential lower than -15 have almost the same differential in their next season, a difference of .7. Tampa Bay qualifies in this group this year and I’ve already gone into why they could have a bounce back season this year, especially after adding players like Carl Nicks, Doug Martin, and Vincent Jackson.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)