Potential Turnaround Teams in NFL

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL OFTEN
AN INDICATOR FOR TURNAROUNDS

We finally have a day to talk some football since the Boston/Orlando series came to an end Friday Night in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics earned a spot in the league championships...and we look forward to previewing the final round for you later in the week right here in the NOTEBOOK.

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Let's talk some football...

One of our traditional summer projects is to go through and isolate teams in position to have dramatic reversals of fortune in the NFL. Early season pointspreads are typically based on what happened last year. If you can stay ahead of the curve for knowing what's going to happen THIS year, you're going to score some major profits.

A quick and easy way to make some estimates is to look at turnover differential. Teams with poor turnover data in a given year are very likely to improve the next season. They make adjustments that fix the problems. Young quarterbacks mature and become less mistake-prone. Plus, there's an element of luck in the turnover category...and luck evens out over time.

Your BEST nominees for turnarounds are the teams who had the worst turnover differentials the season before. A big part of what we'll be doing in September (and maybe even in August to the degree Preseason spreads are influenced by a prior season's perceptions), will derive from what you're about to read today.

Let's start in the NFC, since the NFC won the Super Bowl. Here were the worst turnover differentials in the 2009 season in the NFC

NFC'S WORST TURNOVER DIFFERENTIALS
Detroit -18 (2-14 record)
St. Louis -13 (1-15 record)
Washington -11 (4-12 record)
Seattle -8 (5-11 record)
NY Giants -7 (8-8 record)
Arizona -7 (10-6 record)
Chicago -6 (7-9 record)
Tampa Bay -5 (3-13 record)

An interesting mix there. Detroit was starting a rookie quarterback, and rookies are often turnover disasters. The Lions should definitely improve in that stat this year. St. Louis is NOW starting a rookie in Sam Bradford though. We're less optimistic about turnover improvement in 2010 for the Rams. Washington brought in veteran star Donovan McNabb, which will help solve their turnover problems immediately.

You go down the list, and you have some traditional playoff contenders (and one playoff team in Arizona) having uncharacteristic troubles. We certainly expect improvement from Seattle and the NY Giants. Arizona's less of a sure thing because Kurt Warner has retired, and Matt Leinart is projected to start. If he's rusty early on, turnovers will continue to be a problem for the Cards.

At the bottom...Chicago will have a feast or famine pattern with interception-prone Jay Cutler playing in a Mike Martz package. When it works, it will be a thing of beauty. When it doesn't, turnover disasters! We'll be watching developments with the Bears very closely.

Tampa Bay was like Detroit on a smaller scale, starting an inexperienced quarterback for much of the season.

History makes it very clear that handicappers should be looking for improvement from anyone on the list above that was 5-11 or worse (Seattle, Washington, Tampa Bay, Detroit, St. Louis). The Giants may re-assert themselves in the playoff picture too if they can get their differential headed in the right direction.

In the NFC, the data above suggests things could get very interesting in all four divisions. Let's see the numbers from the AFC...

AFC'S WORST TURNOVER DIFFERENTIALS
Oakland -13 (5-11 record)
Cleveland -12 (5-11 record)
Miami -8 (7-9 record)
Tennessee -4 (8-8 record)

What a sharp conference! We listed several NFC teams at -5 or worse. Only three AFC teams were that bad. We went down to -4 over here just to include a fourth team! Clearly, from top to bottom, the AFC did a better job of protecting the ball on offense, and forcing turnovers on defense. It's ironic that a big interception is what kept the AFC from winning the Super Bowl in the Indianapolis/New Orleans game.

Oakland and Cleveland both had widely publicized quarterback issues, as well as rosters of receivers that weren't scaring anybody. Both have taken strides to upgrade, with Cleveland basically cleaning house in the backfield and the front office. Oakland finally gave up on the Jamarcus Russell experiment, the first step toward fixing their turnover incompetence.

The turnaround potential for both teams will depend on who ultimately gets the starting quarterback position in September...then will be magnified by early season performances. Early momentum from either team could bring excitement to either city. Early problems...and we could see repeat disappointments in front of impatient fan bases.

Miami is hoping to get settled at the QB position this year as well as Chad Henne continues to mature. He had 14 interceptions last year to go with just 12 TD's. But, he did show promise on several occasions. Tennessee really wasn't a turnover disaster, and can expect Vince Young to continue to mature even if he's not ultimately a 'championship' type answer as a signal caller.

We won't ask for the moon...but we do expect improved play this year from Oakland and Cleveland in particular. We think the extremes from both lists make up a good 'starting' list for projecting turnarounds in the NFL in 2010.

We'll be talking a lot more about pro and college football in the coming days and weeks. It's going to be a busy summer as always in the NOTEBOK. We still have some NBA action to take care of...with previews and summaries through the championships. Major League Baseball will be front and center, particularly with a heavy INTERLEAGUE slate resuming soon. That's always a popular feature for fans and legal sports bettors. The summer also traditionally features are conference previews in the colleges (all board conferences including the mid majors), and our divisional previews in the NFL (all eight).

Hey, June and July are going to ZOOM by with so much to talk about!

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This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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Nov

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