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Super Bowl Intangibles Part 2, Turnovers

   by Matt Fargo - 01/30/2008

This is one of those topics that can be hit or miss since turnovers are usually so unpredictable in the NFL. Interceptions are more likely to be determined or “calledâ€쳌 but fumbles, while contagious throughout a season, can happen when least expected and vice versa. Turnovers play significant roles in every game and the Super Bowl is no exception. In the first 41 Super Bowls, teams that win the turnover battle are 38-3 SU and 32-6-3 ATS. So pick the turnover winner and you likely have a winning ticket.


It is easier said that done however to try and determine who will win the battle of the turnovers. Looking at the regular season cumulative results will give you an indicator of which team is most likely to take the margin but if it were that easy, we’d all be rich. That aspect definitely plays a part in trying to make a prediction but it is just a piece of the pie that needs to be looked at. Looking through the most recent results will work better as will what the teams did during the playoffs.

New England finished third in the AFC during the regular season with a +16 turnover margin and that also happened to be third in the entire league. This was successful based on an efficient offense more so than a ball-hawking defense. The offense gave up the ball only 15 times the entire season, which was four times fewer than the Colts who were second with 19. The Patriots were the only team in the league to finish in single digits with both fumbles and interceptions.

The defense grabbed 31 turnovers which was 5th in the AFC, certainly a very good amount. The Patriots started the season with a +9 turnover ratio through their first eight games and that was one of the main reasons they started out 8-0 against the number. The margin came down after that as they were +7 though the final eight games (not including playoffs) and although it did not come down much, it came down enough in certain games for them to finish 2-6 ATS. New England is +1 in the playoffs.

The Giants meanwhile were not so good in the turnover department. They finished the regular season -9 in turnover margin which was 14th in the NFC and along with Washington, they were the only team in the entire league to make the playoffs with a negative margin. New York gave it up 34 times, fourth most in the conference and grabbed 25 turnovers, fifth least in the conference so it was a mixture of both sides not getting it done.

The postseason has been a complete turnaround however. The Giants are +5 in turnover margin in their three games and most important, they have turned it over only once in the postseason. A team that turns it over only once in three playoff road games will make it through as the Giants have. Eli Manning has been the main reason for this. He has not thrown an interception in the playoffs after tossing 20 during the regular season. His TD/INT ratio over the last seven games is 10/3.

We could see the old Manning come out but he is saying the right things and stating that he is the most comfortable that he has ever been. However, this is the biggest game of his career and the nerves and stress could cause a relapse. His counterpart Tom Brady has been here before, three times in fact, so he certainly is not going to let the pressure get to him. Brady tossed three interceptions against the Chargers and while we can normally chalk that up to just a bad game, his injury could make that come into play again.

New England has the advantage in turnovers coming into this one but it is not as big as it looks on paper. The recent success of New York’s turnover margin is huge because it has come at the right time. Conversely, the Patriots are +1 in the playoffs after finishing dead even in their final five regular season games. If New England wins the turnovers here, they win the game but it won’t be a guaranteed win for New York if it does. The Giants will likely need to be at least +2 to win outright and no worse than even for a cover.

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