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July 24, 2006

Fumbles Lost

We all know that turnovers can completely determine a game in the NFL. However, how crucial are they when it comes to finding winners and losers? Should a good football handicapper look at fumbles lost before making a selection? This is something that I set out to prove or disprove. Looking over the 2005 stats, it’s a bit muddy.

First, there are two teams in the NFL that lost 19 fumbles last season—the worst. Those two teams are the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets. The two teams that lost the fewest fumbles are the Cincinnati Bengals and the Seattle Seahawks. The Bengals lost 6 and the Seahawks lost 7.

Right off, we can see that the fewer the fumbles lost, the better the team. However, let’s probe deeper and look at the top six each way. That will give us 12 of the 30 NFL teams.

Here’s how the bad end stacks up:

New Orleans Saints : 19
New York Jets : 19
Washington Redskins : 16
Atlanta Falcons : 16
Arizona Cardinals : 16
Green Bay Packers : 16

Out of this bunch, only the Redskins went to the playoffs. They were 10-6 last season—with a few wins that should not have been there. Anyway, they did nothing in the playoffs. The next best team was the Falcons at 8-8. The rest were much worse. We can conclude that teams that lose about 1 fumble per game are not that good.

Let’s take a look at the better end now.

Cincinnati Bengals : 6
Seattle Seahawks : 7
Indianapolis Colts : 8
New York Giants : 8
New England Patriots : 9
Pittsburgh Steelers : 9

Right off you should notice one common link. Each one of these teams went to the playoffs. In fact, the two Super Bowl XL teams—Seahawks and Steelers—are in this group. We can conclude that teams losing about 1 fumble or less every two games are very good.

I have concluded that the number of fumbles lost should enter the equation when picking a team. Many times that fumble lost equates to points. It could kill a drive in the red zone, lead to an easy score by the opponent, shift momentum or all of these things.

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