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Fumbilitis

   by Bryan Leonard - 11/15/2005

You won’t find “Fumblitisâ€쳌 in any medical journal, but it is an unfortunate ailment. It occurs in the fall along with the onset of winter, just like colds and the flu. It is a very series affliction, too, one that will bring migraine headaches to coaches and offensive coordinators. At times fumblitis can be fatal – to an offense. It will also turn wins into losses.

Fumbles can kill an offense and even turn around games. Sunday saw one example, with the Vikings getting out-gained 405-137 at the NY Giants, yet somehow squeezing out a 24-21 victory! 5 turnovers were the difference, which included one fumble. A fumble turned around the Patriots/Dolphins game, too. With Miami driving late in the second quarter and already up 7-0, TE Randy McMichael fumbled at the 9 after a long gain. Instead of a Miami 14-0 or 10-0 halftime lead, the Patriots marched down and kicked a field goal to get back in the game.

Fumbles can take the life out of an offense. Here is a current list of the team with the most lost fumbles in the NFL: New Orleans (14), Chicago (12), Washington (12), NY Jets (11), St. Louis (9), San Francisco (9), Tennessee (9), Arizona (9), Minnesota (8), Miami (9). Two of those teams have a winning spread record (Bears, Redskins) and the combined spread records are 35-53 ATS.

Sometimes more fumbles can mean the team likes to run the ball more. This would be the case with the Bears and Redskins, who are actually decent teams. But the others have stumbled badly this season, both straight up and against the number, and too many fumbles are a huge reason why.

Let’s go back to 2004. The teams that ended up with the most fumbles were the Bears, Browns, 49ers and Bucs. Those teams didn’t even come close to the playoffs, with the Browns and 49ers battling for last place in the NFL. Holding onto the football is about concentration and effort, and those teams lacked it in 2004.

Turnovers can change everything. Take a look at the Jets/Carolina box score from Sunday. Total yards: NY 214, Carolina 220. The Jets held the edge in rushing yards 137-101. Looks like a defensive game, maybe a 13-10 final score? Note quite. Try Carolina 30, Jets 3. You can guess what’s coming next: 6 Jet turnovers, including 2 fumbles. The Panthers didn’t fumble at all.

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