Thursday, February 7, 2013

NFL 2012 Season Review: Turnover Margin Analysis Part I Article posted July 2, 2012

The second installment in our series of reviewing all of last spring & summer’s statistical projections for the 2012 season will review Turnover Margin (TOM) Part I – in this article I looked at TOM & its impact on points margin by team.  The main basis of the calculations in this analysis involve applying 4 points per turnover, adjusting a team’s points margin for a given season by their TO mark, and fitting that new margin into a standard matrix that has been developed and is widely recognized that slots team’s records dependent on their points margin.
Let’s start this entry by reviewing the projections I made in the summer of 2011 before that NFL season (which is covered in the original article linked above).  Heading into that season I projected seven teams to have less wins in 2011 vs. 2010 – and of those seven 6 dropped in wins, while one stayed the same (BAL remained at 12 wins in both seasons).  On the flip side I projected six teams to increase their wins from 2010 to 2011 – and of those six 4 improved, one stayed the same (OAK went 8-8 in both seasons) & one went the opposite way (SD dropped from 9 to 8 wins).  To summarize my projections on the 2011 season, there were 13 teams slotted to move one way or another strictly based on this TOM analysis – and of the 13 ten moved the way we projected, 2 stayed even, and only 1 moved opposite.
Moving on to last summer, I performed this same analysis and here were the teams that stood out to move either up or down as far as wins go (I only include teams that were projected to move either way by 2gms; 1gm variances are to small & could be based on additional factors not privy to this analysis):
Teams likely to decline in wins (I will list them in order of the biggest variance between their actual wins and their projected wins when stripping out the impact of turnovers; I will also go into detail about the calculation and process for GB – the other teams I will just list the metrics themselves & results):
  • Green Bay Packers: GB went 15-1 in 2011 with a points margin of +12.56/gm.  However, included in that +12.56/gm was +6.00/gm favorable impact generated from a turnover margin that was +24 (as a reminder, each TO is worth 4points: +24 on season divided by 16 games is +1.5 turnovers per game, then take the +1.5 times the 4pts that I value each TO at & you get +6.0ppg used in this calculation).  Almost one full TD per game of favorable impact from the TOM!  When we strip out that impact they were left with a points margin of +6.56, which is typically the margin for an 11-5 team (as mentioned above in the first paragraph, and discussed in more detail in the original article linked above).  That leaves an estimated 4 wins for the 2011 Packers that were generated solely on their ability to force TO’s, and hold onto the ball themselves.  What does that all mean, and how does it tie into this analysis?  Well that is what I am looking for – the biggest variances between actual wins and losses based on a TOM adjusted points margin.  The thought process behind that is TOM is likely to regress towards the mean/median which is 0 annually – it doesn’t always happen like that of course, but for the vast majority of teams it will work as such.  So because a team is unlikely to either enjoy or suffer from a similar TOM in the following season, we want to strip out their impact and look at true performance on the field based on the new points margin calculation.  Last step is inputting these new points margins into the standard matrix that lines up said points margin with record – and the bigger the gap the more likely a team will shift one way or another in the immediate next season – only one team was wrong in the analysis before the 2011 season so it works pretty well.  Now back to GB – the fact they won 4 more games than their adjusted points margin suggested made them a solid candidate to drop in wins YOY (obviously for this example a team that wins 15 games in one season is almost certainly going to drop anyway, but nevertheless they fit the premise the best here) – this model suggested they would go 11-5 in 2012, which turns out to be their actual record this past season.
  • Kansas City Chiefs: KC was one of the hottest preseason teams by many analysts that were projecting big things in 2012.  Although I slotted them into this analysis as a team that would win less games in 2012 vs. 2011, which was against just about anyone that projected the season last summer – the truth is most of their 3 additional wins in 2011 vs. their true performance was not really based on turnovers – it was based on other factors when I went back and broke it down.  So although I called for and got a drop in wins it was more based on other factors, not so much TOM.
  • San Francisco Forty Niners: SF was everyone’s darling in 2011 as they came out of nowhere to go 13-3, and host the NFC Championship Game that they barely lost to the eventual SB Champ NYG.  But, a closer examination of their true performance showed they enjoyed the best TOM in the NFL that year – +28, good for a full TD & XP per game (+7.00ppg).  Of course a reversion backwards after posting a +28 TOM is almost a certainty – and based on their true performance that season w/o a favorable TOM impact they were more like a 10-6 squad, 3 games worse than the record they posted.  This past season SF posted an 11-4-1 mark, which was a drop of 2 games, once again another team that fit the projection.
  • Denver Broncos: just like the Leading Indicators article where although the Broncos fit the premise and argument I called to disregard it based on the signing of future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning.  If the Broncos had kept Tim Tebow as their QB we would have acknowledged these analyses and included the Broncos – this analysis suggested DEN would drop from their 8 wins in 2011 to about a 6-10 team.  But Manning took over under center and the Broncos went on to win 13 games, secure home field advantage in the AFC only to be knocked off by the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Rd. 
  • New England Patriots: the Patriots always seem to be near the top of the NFL in TOM, and 2011 was no different as NE posted a +17, which was 3rd best in the NFL (behind SF & GB, two teams mentioned above) & #1 in the AFC.  Based on that strong # this analysis suggested they would win 12 games or less in 2012 – and once again this analysis nailed it as the Patriots finished the regular season 12-4.
  • New York Giants: the defending SB champs, who only won 9 games in 2011, were projected to drop to .500 or below based on the favorable TOM impact they enjoyed during their run to their second championship in four seasons.  Their points margin during the season was actually a negative (how many teams that won the Super Bowl posted a negative points margin – basically in easier terms, how many champions were outscored during the regular season – can’t be many) – (0.38) was the mark; adjusting for their favorable TOM impact of 1.75 they were outscored by just about 2ppg in 2011 – which typically represents a 7-9 team.  Based on that I projected the Giants to fall in wins this past season, and although it did not occur, the Giants remained at 9 wins – so it was a wash.
  • Oakland Raiders: another team some were high on heading into this past season were the Raiders – many figured a full offseason & regular season of QB Carson Palmer, combined with what they hoped would be a 100% RB Darren McFadden would equal bigger things in 2012; after all they did win 8 games in 2011, tying for the division title with quite often a banged up team, and Palmer coming onboard midway through the season.  But once the year got underway it was clear it would be the same ole Raiders – and this analysis would once again be correct as OAK fell to just 4 wins, half of their total from 2011.
Summary of teams projected to fall in wins from 2011 to 2012: there were 7 teams that fit the original premise, but DEN was removed based on the high impact signing of QB Peyton Manning (only a HOF type player or significant upgrade or downgrade at the QB position would cause me to remove a team from these analysis – Manning fits both criteria).  That left six teams (GB, KC, SF, NE, NYG, OAK) that this analysis projected would drop in wins from 2011.  The results were once again right on target, with not one team moving the opposite way of the projection – the only team that remained static were NYG, who stayed at 9 wins on the season. 
The second half of this analysis shows teams I projected to increase their wins from 2011 to 2012 based on this TOM analysis:
  • Miami Dolphins: MIA was an interesting team in 2011 as they outscored their opponents by 1.00ppg, suffered from a negative (1.50ppg) in TOM, yet posted a sub .500 mark at 6-10.  Their adjusted points margin of +2.50ppg correlates to a 10-6 team, or 4 wins above what they accomplished – making them a prime candidate to improve in 2012.  And although it was slim they did improve, posting a 7-9 record.
  • Philadelphia Eagles: the Eagles were the one team in 2012 that really stood out in my analysis, and for reasons other than good.  So many indicators were pointing towards a nice bounce-back campaign in 2012, but it never materialized and now HC Andy Reid calls KC his home, and ex-Oregon HC Chip Kelly takes over the reins in the City of Brotherly Love.  This analysis projected the Eagles to improve on last year’s 8-8 mark but PHI instead backtracked, winning half the games they did in 2011 at 4-12. 
  • Indianapolis Colts: similar to GB above but in the opposite direction the Colts were just 2-14 in 2011, securing the first pick and landing one of the best QB prospects in quite some time Andrew Luck.  Although my analysis projected an improvement from the Colts this year I am not sure anyone saw this Colts team posting an 11-5 mark, while earning a playoff berth!  Quite a turnaround and another check mark for this analysis.
  • Minnesota Vikings: besides IND the Vikings were also a wonderful and surprising story in 2012.  Last season they were just 3-13, and with RB Adrian Peterson coming back from a torn ACL suffered in late December 2011, prospects seemed dim for a turnaround season in Minneapolis.  Miraculously Peterson was back for Opening Day, he wound up rushing for over 2,000 yards, and the Vikes secured a playoff berth!  Needless to say MIN improved in 2012, plus seven games which only trailed IND +9 games for biggest turnarounds of the 2012 season.
  • San Diego Chargers: for the second straight season the Chargers found themselves on the likely to improve list; and for the second straight season SD dropped in wins (by one each time, 9 to 8 to 7 the last 3 seasons), moving against this projection.  That led to the firing of HC Norv Turner, and wholesale changes for a club that needs some significant changes to get back towards the elite in the AFC – consider the window closed on the championship aspirations of the Chargers we knew the last 5-8 years.
  • Washington Redskins: the Skins were one of my biggest sleeper teams heading into this season, and they certainly did not disappoint me or this analysis as they improved by 5 wins, jumping all the way to the top of the NFC East, and hosting their first playoff game in over a decade.  With RG3 leading this team, and HC Mike Shanahan on the sidelines, the sky seems to be the limit for WAS – and I would not be surprised at all if they won it all in the next handful of years.
Summary of teams projected to increase their wins from 2011 to 2012: this analysis projected 6 teams to improve their wins vs. 2011 – of those 6 four were able to improve (IND, MIN, WAS, MIA), some by leaps & bounds including a trio of playoff teams (IND, MIN, WAS)!  There were two teams however that continued their slide down – PHI, who was the biggest surprise in a bad way this past NFL season, and SD who for the 2nd year in a row showed up as a team that should increase their wins YOY only to instead fall by 1 win each time.
Combining the two groupings of teams from this analysis there were 12 teams projected to slide one way or another: 9 teams moved the way this analysis projected, 1 team stayed flat YOY (NYG), and 2 teams moved the opposite direction (PHI & SD).
Once again we have posted another analysis that proved to be right on target – and extremely useful information for your handicapping process.  Stay tuned as we move through the spring and summer for this same analysis posted for the upcoming 2013 campaign; along with additional forward looking projections and backward looking grading on many other stats we utilize for a high degree of effectiveness.

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