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The importance of the Kansas City Chiefs turnover ratio

The Chiefs are leading the NFL in turnover ratio. What should that mean for the team's ability to make the playoffs? Here's a look back at some historical numbers.


The Kansas City Chiefs have turned things around. That's an obvious statement since the team has one more win in Week 3 than all of last season. One of the primary reasons for their newfound success is their turnover ratio. Currently the Chiefs lead the NFL in turnover ratio (takeaways minus giveaways) with +9 and Andy Reid's team is one of only two teams in the NFL that has yet to commit a turnover (along with the Tennessee Titans).

Recently, Reid commented on the stat and noted just how important it is for a team's success. While a statistic like turnover ratio should lead to obvious consequences in the standings (i.e. positive results equal wins; negative results equal losses), it's interesting to take a closer look at the true value of turnover ratio.

It should be no surprise that the teams that force the most turnovers while committing the least are among the best teams in the NFL in any given season.

But there's more.

The Chiefs were dead last in the NFL last year in turnover ratio at -24 and consequently finished with a 2-14 record. The Jaguars matched the Chiefs for worst record in the league yet sat in the middle of the pack at -3 overall. The Browns had a 5-11 record but finished as the fifth best team in the AFC in turnover ratio.

At the top of the AFC South, the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts were in a close race for the division lead. The Texans finished with 12 wins (and the title) and a solid +12 turnover ratio. The Colts had 11 wins and finished with a -12 turnover ratio. Complete opposite performances on the turnover ratio spectrum brought similar results in the standings.

In 2011, the Steelers were the worst team in the AFC in turnover ratio at -13 yet they finished tied at the top of the AFC North with a 12-4 record. Clearly the team was able to overcome its own propensity to turn the ball over. Yet a closer look reveals that the Steelers were one-and-out in the playoffs despite their impressive record.

What about the Chiefs performance vs. turnover ratio? Here's a closer look at the last 10 years:

Year Turnover Ratio (NFL Rank) Record
2003 +19 (1) 13-3
2004 -6 (22) 7-9
2005 +7 (t-9) 10-6
2006 +6 (t-7) 9-7
2007 -11 (t-29) 4-12
2008 +5 (t-8) 2-14
2009 +1 (t-16) 4-12
2010 +9 (t-5) 10-6
2011 -2 (t-18) 7-9
2012 -24 (t-31) 2-14

For the most part, the Chiefs turnover ratio year-to-year has been a good indicator of performance in the standings. Yet there are some very interesting exceptions. Note that just last year, the Chiefs had the worst record in the NFL and had the league's worst turnover ratio (along with the Eagles). Yet in 2008, the Chiefs had the same horrific record and held the 8th best mark in the league. Go figure.

No matter what statistic used to assess a team's performance, exceptions will be found. Turnover ratio may not the most accurate way to assess a team's performance in a season, yet it's a solid read nonetheless. As the league leader in turnover ratio through Week 3, the Chiefs should feel very good about both the ability to limit turnovers on offense with Alex Smith under center and to force turnovers with a sack-happy defense.

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