Football picksOctober 13, 2014

Football Handicapping: On Turnovers and Penalties

Football Handicapping: On Turnovers and PenaltiesWhen you’re sitting down to make NFL picks this year, you’ll think a lot about offense and defense. You might consider coaching and special teams, as well. If you really think about things, though, you’ll know the factors that tend to influence games the most. Turnovers are plays that can shift momentum, cost you points, and cost you possession. How about penalties? Are they important? Here, we’ll talk about those things to help you with your NFL picks and college football picks.

Turnovers are exceptionally important when you’re making football picks. Statisticians like to take a look at those plays that have the greatest impact on whether one team wins or loses. When they look at the totality of a game, these statisticians calculate something called “win probability added.” Plays that weigh heavy on a game’s outcome have a higher WPA, while other plays have a low WPA. Turnovers tend to have the highest WPA, so you need to know whether a team is likely to cough it up. Especially in those instances where you’re looking at a close spread, choosing a club that protects the ball can be very important.

How about penalties? How much do they matter when you make NFL picks? The truth is that penalties matter less than you think. People tend to remember penalties in big spots, and an ill-timed penalty can certainly be hard to handle. Over the course of time, however, it has been demonstrated that penalties and winning have little correlation. In college football, teams like Miami and Florida State dominated the 1990s despite high penalty totals. In the NFL, the 49ers have found success recently despite their propensity to get flagged.