Win the Turnover Battle Win games….. Is it True?

By: Matthew Sullivan and Robert Spivey

Research Question

You always hear coaches say, “If you win the turnover battle, you win the game!” But how true is this? We wanted to look at it statistically to see the correlation between winning the turnover battle and winning the game. The turnover battle is when your team has less turnovers than the other team (forcing more turnovers than giving up turnovers). When you think about it, it does makes sense that the less times you give up the ball and the more times you take the ball away from the opposing team makes you more likely to win right? We thought so too but we wanted to make sure and see how strong the correlation is between these statistics.


   For our analysis we looked at the 2016, 2017, and the 2018 NFL football seasons. Our main question involves the idea that most coaches preach to win games and be successful you must win the turnover battle. To test the basis of this question we took the NFL final standings for all three seasons we were looking at. We also got data on the final rankings for turnover differential. We compared the rankings in both of these categories for each team. We ran a correlation analysis for each team’s final league ranking and there turnover margin ranking. The Correlation for the 2016 season was .709. In 2017 it was .617 and in the 2018 season it was .683. Below is the 2018 portion of our data file with the two rankings and the correlation between turnovers and position in the final standings for the 2018 season.

All three correlations from the three seasons averaged together produced an average correlation of .670. This correlation is a semi strong positive correlation. This correlation shows that turnovers do affect you when it comes to winning and losing games. The teams that had higher turnovers tended to finish lower in the overall standings, While the teams that had low amounts of turnovers tended to finish higher in the standings and have more wins. The data analysis and the correlation backs up the saying used by most football football coaches that you must win the turnover battle to be successful and win games. It clearly Is not the only factor that goes into winning football games but it definitely puts you in a great position to win games.

Data source

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