The Jets Had The Leagues Worst Turnover Differential in 2016

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Jets fans don’t really need a reminder that the team finished with a record of just five wins against eleven losses, good for last in the AFC East and a spot way out of contention once again.

It was a tough season for the Gang Green, punctuated by yet another Super Bowl win for the team’s fierce AFC East rival New England Patriots this past Sunday night in Houston.

A look at the team’s win and loss record this year certainly shows the results, or lack thereof, but what those numbers won’t tell you is why the Jets finished among the worst teams in the NFL this season. It obviously comes down to a number of different factors, but with so many NFL games won and lost simply by who hangs on to the ball better, or who coughs it up the most, the team’s turnover statistics do provide a rather telling story.

Like a lot of NFL coaches, former San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions head coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci has long maintained that winning the turnover battle can win you games. According to Mariucci, it’s all about the number of possessions, possession time, clock time and the number of chances to score. He says that if a team gives the ball away three times a game, that represents three opportunities out of just 12 or 13 each game where the team won’t have a chance to score. Add in the fact the team giving the ball away is often providing it’s opponent with a short field and Mariucci says its evident that the team that loses the turnover battle, loses a very high percentage of those games.

More often than not this past season, the Jets lost the turnover battle. In fact, the team finished dead last in the entire league in terms of turnover differential, which is essentially the difference between the number of times the team took the ball away from an opponent through an interception or fumble and the number of times they gave it up through an interception or lost fumble.

The 2016 Jets finished with a -20 turnover differential, having just 14 takeaways versus 34 giveaways all season long. The equally as futile 2016 Chicago Bears also finished with a -20 turnover differential, and an even worse record of three wins and 13 losses. However, the Jets claimed dead last in the category due to the fact the Bears actually had fewer total turnovers, at 31.

Those who discount the importance of the statistic need only look at the fact this year’s two Superbowl teams both finished in the top five in the category this season. The New England Patriots finished the regular season with a +12 turnover differential and the Atlanta Falcons finished at +11. Only the Oakland Raiders (+16) and the Kansas City Chiefs (+16) had better turnover differential statistics this season, but it’s also worth noting the Patriots and Falcons were tied for the least number of total giveaways at 11.

Holding on the to the ball better and forcing more turnovers on the defensive end could be the key to turning around the Jets fortunes in 2017, but it’s a good bet it’s going to take more than one off-season to turn this particular statistic on its head. Jets fans might not be able to celebrate a championship run next season, but armed with the information these turnover differential statistics provide, they can still be winners.

Among the many proposition bets normally available for NFL games are lines on who will turn the ball over first, or the most, in each game. Teams like the Bears, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cleveland Browns, and the Jets, who sat at the bottom of the league in turnover differential this past season, would have to be considered favorites to continue that trend into 2017. The sharpest fans will find a way to take advantage of that and turn what would otherwise be another abysmal losing season, into a winning one.