The NFL season is over. Whether your wagers lit it up like the Bronco defense or tanked like the Browns, don’t forget to review the year that was; there is valuable information to be gleaned from looking back at the campaign. File these nuggets away for 2016.
Turnover Margin is Always Huge
During the regular season, Carolina was the top squad in the league by a large margin with a +20 turnover margin. That translated to an NFL best 15-1 record. Of the four teams that received first round playoff byes, three ranked among the top-five in turnover differential. In the Panthers’ two playoff wins, they were +8 in turnover margin. They were -2 in their Super Bowl loss to the Broncos. Denver won the turnover battle in all three of their playoff games.
As much as wide open offense appears to be a trend in pro football, we might be seeing a shift towards dominant defenses ruling the league. Not only did the Broncos win the Super Bowl thanks to a stifling D – just like the Seahawks two years before them – but each of the top-four defenses in the league (according to the advanced metrics from footballoutsiders.com) won at least one playoff game, and ten of the top-12 defenses made the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Bears’ up-tempo attack failed under Marc Trestman, as did Philly’s under Chip Kelly.
Strength of schedule makes a huge difference. The Bears finished 6-10 while playing the toughest slate in the league. They figure to improve if they face some weaker opponents next year. Meanwhile, the Panthers benefited from playing the easiest schedule in the league: Carolina didn’t face a single playoff team in the final six weeks of the regular season. Don’t take 2015 records at face value when you get ready for next season; remember to look at who teams played last year, and whether they’re getting harder or easier matchups in 2016.
(Photo credit: Joe Bielawa [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)