New York Jets games in 2011 were filled with turnovers – the Jets were tied for second in the NFL with 31 takeaways but also had the most giveaways in the league with 34. Turnovers are part of the sudden change aspect of the game. Unpredicted, games can turn at any time on a given play. Are turnovers truly unpredictable? Do the trends suggest that the Jets are in for an upswing when looking at the turnover story from the past few seasons?
Does a high turnover total for the New York Jets in 2011 – both forcing and committing turnovers – suggest that the team's win total will take an upturn in 2012? College football fans familiar with the work of Phil Steele know his theory on turnovers: teams with a double-digit positive difference usually win the same amount or less games than the year before and teams with a double-digit negative difference typically stay the same or see an upswing.
Three NFL teams had negative double-digit turnover totals (Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers) and only one team had a positive double-digit total (New England Patriots). The Jets aren't on the double-digit side either way. So where are we going with this?
Let's stretch the general principle out further. The same amount of forced turnovers with less turnovers committed typically means more wins. Can we realistically predict less turnovers committed by the Jets this year while forcing the same number?
Start on defense. In three seasons under Rex Ryan, the Jets have at least 30 turnovers each year. The Jets forced 31 in 2009, 30 in 2010 and 31 in 2011. That's unbelievably consistent and there's no reason to expect that to change. The Jets have upgraded their speed on defense and believe they will generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, plus the addition of LaRon Landry adds another playmaker to the secondary. That could cause an uptick in forced turnovers, but let's keep the expected number at 30.
Let's move to turnovers committed. Here's the last three seasons under Rex Ryan:
This is where the epiphany hits. We have already established that turnovers are fairly unpredictable, but there are pre-cursors. For example, Mark Sanchez was a rookie quarterback in 2009, which makes sense when you see the inflated number of interceptions. In his second season, the interception total went down. The interceptions went back up in 2011 as the offense threw the ball more than they had in the first two years with Mark Sanchez. Expected, but four more interceptions isn't what threw the turnover differential out the window. Interceptions can be expected to go down once again as the Jets go to a more run-oriented offensive approach under Tony Sparano and Mark Sanchez has another year of experience under his belt.
Check out the fumble stats. The Jets lost as many fumbles last season as they had in the first two seasons under Rex Ryan combined. Fumbles can't be predicted, but having the same amount as the team combined for in the previous two years in a single season is a freak occurrence, and bad luck. The law of averages should clean that up in 2012.
Mark Sanchez was responsible for eight lost fumbles after losing just four in the previous two seasons. Improved work up front by the offensive line, a more run-oriented approach and an emphasis on ball security should cut down on that number. Also consider that two of the lost fumbles were by Antonio Cromartie on special teams returns. It's not the main ball-carriers for the Jets that coughed up the ball last season, which makes the high amount of fumbles even more of a freak occurrence – and less likely to happen again in 2012.
Is it guaranteed that the Jets will turn the ball over less while continuing to force a high amount? No, but all signs point to just that happening. Winning the turnover battle is a big step towards winning games, and the Jets gave up the most points off of turnovers in the NFL last season, but still finished 8-8. Look for an immediate turnaround in the turnover department in 2012 for the Jets, and an immediate uptick in wins along with it.
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