Most football stat heads are keenly aware of the importance of turnover differential. Historically, teams with the highest turnover differentials fill the playoffs and often win it all.
The stat is so telling that a high turnover differential can elevate a bad team to good team status, a good one to great.
Not only does Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith know this, he preaches it to his players religiously. And that sermon has been making disciples among Texans players since Smith first arrived in H-Town.
#Texans defense in 2020:— Nick Schwager (@NickSchwagerNFL) January 10, 2022
9 total takeaways
-9 turnover differential #Texans defense in 2021:
25 total takeaways
+3 turnover differential
Safe to say the first year with Lovie Smith was a success in these particular categories.
From the year prior to Smith running the defense to last season’s end, the differential swung +12 in the Texans favor. 25 total takeaways is very solid. Unfortunately, the team also gave the ball away 22 times, netting a positive, although barely so, +3 differential on the season.
In 2021, the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts ruled the league with a +14 differential. The Cowgirls made the playoffs, the Baby Horses stayed home, having punched above their weight class but not far enough. Eventual Super Bowl winner Los Angeles Rams had a +2 regular season differential.
Sports Illustrated Packer Central
No stat in the NFL means more than takeaways and giveaways. You know that. Everyone knows that. Here’s the proof:
– This season (2021), the team that came out on top in turnovers went 166-41-1. That’s an 80.0 percent success rate.
– Go plus-2 or greater, and it becomes a winning percentage of 86.3.
– In the last decade of playoffs, the team that won the turnover battle went 58-20, a winning percentage of 74.4.
– The Packers won the turnover battle in 11 games this season and won them all. They lost the turnover battle in three games and lost them all.
– The last five Super Bowl champions and 11 of the last 12 finished in the top eight in the league and were plus-6 or better. The exception was Denver in 2015; it went plus-4 in the playoffs, though.
For anyone wanting further proof of how important turnovers are, look no further than the Houston Texans first 2022 preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. In the low scoring opener, where two interceptions led to points for the opposing team and a late turnover allowed the Texans to clinch the victory.
If Smith can continue to turn this defense into a den of ball thieves, and help Davis Mills and the offense cut down on the volume of giveaways, the Texans will punch above their weight class this year.
J.J. Watt’s prime was full of blue collar defense, but what put him on the map was a legendary interception he returned to the house in the playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Watt’s style of batting passes in the hopes of generating turnovers was a key component of the last truly dominant defense fielded by the Texans.
With Lovie Smith pounding the “get me the ball” drum to his defenders, maybe, just maybe we’re one step closer to that level of domination once again.