It’s one of football’s oldest maxims: the key to winning the game is to win the turnover battle. This works better as an explanation for why a team won rather than as a cause of success — correlation doesn’t equal causation, of course — but that doesn’t mean the stat is useless.
We know that turnover rates have declined significantly over the last several decades. So here’s the question of the day: does winning the turnover battle matter more or less now than it used to?
As it turns out, the importance of winning the turnover battle has been remarkably static throughout NFL history. Last year, teams that won the turnover battle won 78% of their games. And from 2007 to 2016, teams that won the turnover battle won 78% of their games. In the decade of the ’70s, when turnover rates were much higher, teams that won the turnover battle won 78% of their games. From 1950 to 2016, the average winning percentage of teams that won the turnover battle was 78%, too. Take a look:
One thing that has changed a lot: the average amount of turnovers by which the team that wins the turnover battle actually wins that battle. It’s now consistently below 2.00:
What do you think?