The NFL is still on vacation and will be until late July when training camps start. To help you through this football-less world we will look at three stats (Pythagorean wins, record in close games and turnover differential) that can be useful in predicting which teams will improve and decline this fall.

We have covered Pythagorean Wins and record in close games, now turnover differential.

A team’s turnover differential, like its records in one score games, is inconsistent from season to season. This is especially true of the teams on the extreme ends.

Here were the teams with the largest turnover margins in 2014.

ImproveTurnover DifferentialDeclineTurnover Differential
Tennessee-10Green Bay+14
NY Jets-11New England+12
New Orleans-13Seattle+9

A year later the majority of these teams regressed to the mean. The Jets, Redskins, Saints and Raiders, four of the worst teams actually had positive turnover differentials in 2015. Green Bay, New England and Houston were at the top of the leaderboard with a combined +38 in the turnover department. They were not as successful in 2015 as their combined total was cut by more than half.

What teams can we expect to improve and decline based on turnover differential?

TeamTurnover Differential
Carolina Panthers20
Kansas City Chiefs14
Cincinnati Bengals11
Arizona Cardinals9
New England Patriots7
Buffalo Bills6
NY Giants6
NY Jets6
Seattle Seahawks6
Green Bay Packers5
Los Angeles Rams5
Minnesota Vikings5
Houston Texans5
Washington Redskins4
New Orleans Saints2
Pittsburgh Steelers2
Oakland Raiders1
Miami Dolphins-3
Chicago Bears-4
Denver Broncos-4
San Diego Chargers-4
Indianapolis Colts-5
Philadelphia Eagles-5
San Francisco 49ers-5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers-5
Detroit Lions-6
Atlanta Falcons-7
Cleveland Browns-9
Jacksonville Jaguars-10
Tennessee Titans-14
Baltimore Ravens-14
Dallas Cowboys-22

Dallas, Tennessee and Cleveland, all teams that we have discussed in the previous articles, likely won’t be as unlucky with the bounce of the ball in 2016. The bounce of the ball is exactly what we are talking about when it comes to turnover differential. Poor Dallas, the Cowboys only recovered 34.5 percent of loose balls (worst in the NFL). Forcing fumbles is a skill, recovering them is not. Fumble luck plays a big role in turnover differential. Once the ball hits the ground it is hard to predict which team will retain possession.

Carolina was the best in the NFL at forcing interceptions (+24, tops in the league) and recovering fumbles (+15, also best in the NFL) but its doubtful they will be quite as good as they were a year ago.

Pythagorean Wins, record in close games and turnover differential can’t predict what will happen but they do give us an idea of what to expect from teams going forward. Tennessee and Dallas will likely improve in 2016 after underperforming their point differential, having bad records in close games and poor luck with turnovers.

Just about everything went right for Carolina, and it has to for any team to reach the big game. The Panthers rode excellent play from Cam Newton and an opportunistic defense to the Super Bowl. However, these indicators of future success suggest that the Panthers will regress.

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