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Turning Turnovers into Profits
October 31, 2006

What is the single most important statistic in the NFL with respect to covering the spread? Turnovers!

My research has shown that there's a >60% correlation between TO margin and a team's point spread record on the season. In any given game, achieve a TO margin of only +1 and your chances of covering are almost 65%; at least +3 and it's >85%. The problem with turnovers is that they can be unpredictable. Let me show you three ways in which I try to play "prophet" to profit from them.

The "Turnover Turnaround": The majority of turnovers are simply the result of good or bad fortune. Many a game has been decided by a tipped pass that turned into a "pick-six" or the bounce of a fumbled loose ball. I keep a 3 week moving average of each team's TO margin per game. Every week, I am looking for games where there is an absolute difference of at least three to make a wager ON the unlucky or AGAINST the lucky team.

The "Bogus Win" (and Loss): Quite commonly, there will be games in which the winning team was outplayed but won almost entirely because of turnovers. I look to bet AGAINST them and ON the team they beat the following week. The Pittsburgh @ Oakland in Week 8 game typified this scenario. The Raiders had only 98 yds of offense, but were +3 in TO's including 2 pick-sixs in their 20-13 win.

The "Sloppy Win": This term is from handicapper Dan Gordon. Occasionally a team will win despite it's turnovers. Because they won while not taking care of the ball, they often carry on their sloppy play the next week and lose. A good example was Baltimore's Week 4 win. Despite 3 TO's, including 2 McNair int's, the Ravens were able to rally for a 16-13 win over San Diego. Sloppy QB play persisted in their subsequent loss @ Denver as McNair repeatedly forced passes into coverage throwing three more picks. To qualify, the winning team must have at least three turnovers and more turnovers than the team they beat.

Reed Hogben M.D.

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