Before the NFL season began we looked at three stats (Pythagorean wins, record in close games and turnover differential) that can be useful in predicting which teams will improve and decline. Since we are at the midway point in the NFL season it is time to trot those stats back out and see which teams are overrated and underrated.
Bet Labs Manager Travis Reed already tackled Pythagorean wins (point differential). In fact, there is a Pro System that utilizes this stat and has hit 58.1% against-the-spread.
Record in Close Games
Winning games decided by one touchdown or less is totally random and success/failure is unsustainable. Don’t believe me? Look no further than this year’s Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco and crew started the season with wins against the Bills (13-7), Browns (25-20) and Jags (19-17). Less than seven points decided each contest. Baltimore promptly lost their next three games by a combined 11 points.
What teams have been the luckiest in one-score games and which are primed for positive regression?
|New England Patriots||2-0||100|
|New York Giants||4-1||80|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2-1||66.7|
|New York Jets||2-1||66.7|
|Green Bay Packers||3-2||60|
|Los Angeles Rams||3-2||60|
|New Orleans Saints||3-3||50|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2-2||50|
|San Diego Chargers||1-4||20|
|San Francisco 49ers||0-1||0|
Houston is 5-0 at home; four of those wins have come by a touchdown or less. The Texans could go undefeated at NRG Stadium but are unlikely to win every game decided by one score. The Raiders have also been fortunate in tight games. BlackJack Del Rio has made a number of aggressive calls in leading Oakland to 6-2 start; however, the team’s five wins by one score have all come against teams without winning records. This is an indication that the Raiders are more pretenders than contenders.
On the flip side, the Browns can’t buy a win, let alone one decided by one score. The quarterback position continues to be a revolving door and the team has lost four games where they were tied or leading at halftime. Misery loves company and the Chargers woes in tight games continue. San Diego finished last year with a 3-8 record in games decided by one score, they are already 1-4 this season and would be 1-5 if they hadn’t failed on a two-point conversion last Sunday against the Broncos.
A team’s turnover differential, like its record in one score games, is inconsistent from season to season (or 1st half to 2nd half). This is especially true of the teams on the extreme ends.
|Kansas City Chiefs||9|
|New England Patriots||3|
|New Orleans Saints||0|
|Green Bay Packers||-2|
|San Francisco 49ers||-2|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-2|
|Los Angeles Rams||-3|
|San Diego Chargers||-3|
Minnesota has been incredibly lucky with turnovers. Through the Vikings first five games, you know, when they were undefeated, the team had just one fumble. That was it, one turnover in 20 quarters of play. Vikings players have fumbled the ball 12 times now and only lost four of them but when the team’s opponents have fumbled guess who ended up with each one? The Purple and Gold are 7-for-7 on forced fumble recoveries. Minnesota is likely due for regression and has already failed to win the turnover battle in their last two games – both losses.
Kansas City and Buffalo are also enjoying success due to the bounce of the ball. The Chiefs are tied for the most takeaways in the NFL (16) while the Bills have seen drives end in turnovers just four times.
Looking for an unlucky team? The Jets are second in the league in giveaways (17). However, half of those came in one game where Ryan Fitzpatrick got confused and threw six interceptions to the Chiefs, plus they fumbled twice in that loss. Jacksonville has also been sorry when it comes to turnovers. The Jags have the fewest takeaways in the league (5). Balls have hit the turf ten times in Jaguars games and Jacksonville has only recovered three of them.
To recap, Houston and Oakland are regression candidates based on records in one-score games. Look for the Browns and Chargers to have better luck in games decided by seven points or less in the second half of the season. Turnovers are key, Minnesota has been the beneficiary of the bounce of the ball more times than not but that success rate is unlikely to continue while the Jets and Jags are due for some positive fumble luck moving forward.