Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 1:00 PM
With just two weeks of regular season NFL action left before the playoffs get here, it’s become very clear to me that the impact of defensive takeaways and offensive turnovers is likely to loom large in shaping the championship picture.
The current favorite, the Seattle Seahawks of the NFC, have done a great job this year of playing high impact defense in a way that’s allowing them to dominate the league. And, the hottest current team in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs, have put themselves into the championship discussion in the same manner.
You always hear coaches and players talk about the importance of turnovers. Far too many handicappers and sports bettors ignore the category except when it’s time to complain about a bad beat. If they lost a game because of turnovers, that’s all you’ll hear about. If they won a game because of turnovers, they’ll take credit for their own brilliance. One of my goals here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping is to get you thinking like football insiders rather than squares who can’t win half their bets!
Let’s take a look at the current turnover data for all the teams still in the hunt for the playoffs. I’ll start with Seattle’s defense because that is currently the element that has them in the driver’s seat for a Super Bowl win according to the markets.
TAKEAWAYS BY NFC CONTENDERS
San Francisco 26
Green Bay 18
New Orleans 17
The Seahawks are well clear of the field, the only team that’s forcing more than two turnovers per game on average. A few other legitimate threats are within striking distance. But, only Seattle combines high impact defense with other strengths to create a near super-team.
Note on the other end of the spectrum that New Orleans ISN’T doing a very good job in area. That’s going to be a problem in the playoffs (and might be a problem Sunday in Carolina) because it means Drew Brees has to play perfect football for the team to win. Telling also that three of the bottom four are from the NFC North…a division that’s mostly been a disappointment this season.
GIVEAWAYS BY NFC CONTENDERS
New Orleans 17
San Francisco 18
Green Bay 21
What? Tony Romo’s offense is doing the best job at avoiding turnovers? Who’da thunk it? You see Seattle and Carolina right near the top again, with a few teams sitting nicely in the teens. Only Detroit has been a turnover disaster, which wouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been watching them play this season.
TAKEAWAYS BY AFC CONTENDERS
Kansas City 35
New England 25
San Diego 15
As we move to the AFC, you see that Kansas City is just off the charts. Some of that is the result of playing a very weak schedule. Most metrics show them having the easiest schedule in the league this season. In remains to be seen if they can force turnovers from the caliber of opponent they’ll see in the playoffs. A good test for that comes Sunday when they host Indianapolis. At the very least, you can see that outside of KC there aren’t many scary defenses in the AFC.
GIVEAWAYS BY AFC CONTENDERS
Kansas City 14
San Diego 17
New England 19
Two things jump out there. First, Kansas City leads the pack again. Second, Denver is down at the bottom! Denver is still a big favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl according to market odds. But, they have the most turnover prone offense of all the conference contenders right now. That could turn out to be a big factor next month. Also note that Cincinnati, a popular “second” choice now that New England’s been hit with the injury bug grades out as second worst. Things could be very wide-open in the AFC in January.
I wanted to put this information on your radar so you could study it through this weekend’s schedule that features many contenders playing big games. Be sure you include these defensive and offensive skill sets in your handicapping from this point forward. I can promise you now that the information you just read is going to matter in the playoffs.
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I’ll be back Monday with a review of the first four bowl games of the 2013-14 campaign. Then I’ll be reading and reacting to both college and pro football in the coming weeks as we crown champions in the two biggest Las Vegas betting sports.
Congratulations to all of you who have been doing so well this season with the principles you’ve learned on these pages. It’s an honor to serve as the Dean of Sports Handicapping to such hard-working students.