Measuring the Value of Turnovers

I hope you all were able to read my article on the running game this past week. This upcoming season definitely appears to be a year where Denver's running game is going to try to have a bigger role in the offense.

You can read my article on the value of rushing yards here.

Here are some rules I set in place to develop a system for measuring what I would call a turnover.

First, I view safeties as turnovers, just like interceptions and lost fumbles. They are actually worse because they automatically give the other team 2 points. However, safeties can't be returned for touchdowns and teams that turn the ball over on a safety weren't very like to score anyway.

Second, "hail mary's" don't count as a turnover in most cases, because an incomplete pass would have given the defense the same result. Also, many times these "turnovers" occur on the last possession of the game when the team is already down multiple scores, making it impossible for the team to win whether they scored a touchdown or not.

Therefore, all of the "turnovers" included here are the ones that actually had an impact on the game. The numbers are going to be different compared to what is seen on any network site because they have different figures that did not match the play-by-play for each game.

How It Works

The idea is simple. Since not all turnovers are the same, this keeps track of where on the field each team was when the turnover occurred as well as the points off of the turnover for the other team.

Here is a chart of the expected point values for different yard lines based off of data since 2008, according to

Last Down Approx. Value
LD 1-59 0.75
LD 60-69 2.00
LD 70-79 3.25
LD 80-89 4.25
LD 90-94 5.25
LD 95-99 6.00

Obviously, as teams move down the field, they tend to score more field goals and touchdowns. This gives us an idea of how many points we can assign to each turnover for the first part. The second part is obviously the points scored by the other team following the turnover.

The reasoning behind this is we have no idea what the offense would have done had the turnover not occurred. Instead, we guess based on what other teams have done given the yard line where the turnover occurred. This also incorporates the defense, who is now tasked to stop the opposing offense after a momentum shift or with really bad field position.

One minor change, though, is the yard line used for fumbles. While interceptions are about the throw, fumbles occur after a player has established possession at a specific spot.

This comes into play on two of DT's fumbles, where he had gained over 40 yards on the play, but fumbled against Oakland and New England. Had he just been tackled, Denver would have had the ball at that spot. In essence, he gave up great field position that he had already established for the Denver offense. The yard line where he fumbled is the yard line used for the "last down" part of the scenario.

As always, it is on the offense and defense to limit the value of these turnovers.

In the 2012 regular season, Denver had 24 turnovers and the defense forced 24 turnovers as well.


  • Denver TO = offensive turnover
  • Pts = points the opponent scored on the drive following a Denver turnover
  • EPL = the expected points the offense lost given the yard line of the last down for the offense
  • Value = the approximated point value of the turnover

Here are Denver's turnovers for the regular season:

# Denver TO OPP Pts DEN EPL Value
1 INT 7 3.25 10.25
2 INT 7 3.25 10.25
3 INT 3 5.25 8.25
4 FUM 7 0.75 7.75
5 FUM 7 0.75 7.75
6 FUM 7 0.75 7.75
7 INT 7 0.75 7.75
8 INT 7 0.75 7.75
9 INT 7 0.75 7.75
10 FUM 0 5.25 5.25
11 INT 0 5.25 5.25
12 FUM 3 2.00 5.00
13 INT 3 2.00 5.00
14 FUM 0 4.25 4.25
15 FUM 3 0.75 3.75
16 INT 3 0.75 3.75
17 FUM 0 3.25 3.25
18 SFTY 2 0.75 2.75
19 FUM 0 2.00 2.00
20 FUM 0 2.00 2.00
21 FUM 0 2.00 2.00
22 INT 0 2.00 2.00
23 FUM 0 0.75 0.75
24 INT 0 0.75 0.75


  1. Denver had 12 fumbles lost, 11 interceptions and 1 safety allowed, or 1.5 turnovers per game.
  2. Denver's 24 turnovers turned into 73 points for Denver's opponents, or 3.04/TO.
  3. The expect value of the turnovers for the Denver offense (essentially points lost) was 50 points, or 2.08/TO.
  4. The average Approximated Value (AV) of Denver's fumbles was 4.29 points.
  5. The AV for Denver's interceptions was 6.25.
  6. 9 of Denver's 24 TOs had a value greater than a touchdown.
  7. 7 of Denver's 24 TOs had a value less than a field goal.

Here are the turnovers for Denver's opponents:

# Opponent TO DEN Pts Opp EPL Value
1 INT 7 6.00 13.00
2 FUM 7 2.00 9.00
3 INT 7 2.00 9.00
4 FUM 7 0.75 7.75
5 FUM 7 0.75 7.75
6 FUM 7 0.75 7.75
7 INT 7 0.75 7.75
8 INT 7 0.75 7.75
9 INT 7 0.75 7.75
10 INT 7 0.75 7.75
11 INT 7 0.75 7.75
12 INT 7 0.75 7.75
13 INT 3 3.25 6.25
14 SFTY 5 0.75 5.75
15 INT 3 2.00 5.00
16 FUM 3 0.75 3.75
17 INT 3 0.75 3.75
18 INT 3 0.75 3.75
19 SFTY 2 0.75 2.75
20 FUM 0 2.00 2.00
21 INT 0 2.00 2.00
22 FUM 0 0.75 0.75
23 INT 0 0.75 0.75
24 INT 0 0.75 0.75


  1. Denver's defense forced 15 interceptions, 7 fumbles and 2 safeties, also 1.5 TOs per game.
  2. Denver's offense scored 106 points off of these TOs, or 4.42/TO.
  3. The expected value for the opposing offense for these TOs is 32.0, or 1.5/TO.
  4. The AV for the opponents' fumbles is 5.54.
  5. The AV for the opponents' interceptions is 6.05.
  6. 12 of the 24 TOs were greater than a touchdown.
  7. 6 of the 24 TOs were less than a field goal.


  • Both teams had greater values for interceptions than fumbles. This would make sense since fumbles are more difficult to recover and advance, while interceptions can lead to big returns and set the offense up with great field position.
  • Denver scored 33 more points than its opponents off of turnovers
  • Denver had 18 more expected points lost that its opponents
  • The two points above could mean several things: First, Denver's turnovers were further down the field when they were closer to score. Second, Denver's defense did a greater job minimizing the points off of turnovers. Third, Denver's offense was better than most, which explains why they were able to score more points off of turnovers, on average.
  • This shows the difference in value of a turnover. The "pick-6" by Harris vs. Baltimore was huge, since Baltimore was in a great position to score a touchdown at that point. Others, however, don't mean nearly as much, as a punt may have been very likely anyway.

Turnovers are a big deal, but they are not all the same. Teams that win the turnover battle win the game about 80 percent of the time. These charts explain why turnovers can have such a huge impact on the game.

Going forward, it important to note a couple things from the 2012 Denver team. Offensively, Manning had 11 turnovers (INTs + fumbles) in 61 quarters and 3 turnovers in 1 quarter. The running backs did fumble a lot, which should be addressed by the coaching staff.

Defensively, the Broncos didn't force many interceptions given they were ahead in most of the games and 9 of the TOs came against one team (SD). Much of this had to do with Denver's inability to recover fumbles, which ranked near the bottom of the NFL.

Bailey, Harris, Carter and Moore all had good regular season performances, but they did not force as many interceptions as we would have expected, especially with one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.

We can expect 2013 to be different for several reasons:

  1. Turnovers are completely random and do not translate from year to year for any team
  2. Even if Denver does not force as many fumbles as they did last year, they will most likely recover a higher percentage. If Denver forces more fumbles this season, they could easily double the amount of recovered fumbles from last season
  3. If Montee Ball is the lead back, as many expect him to be, fumbles by the offense should also go down
  4. After the first 6 games, Denver was not challenged often in the second half of games. While Denver has one of the easiest schedules, right now, that can change in a hurry once the real games begin. If Denver is down late, it can cause turnovers by the offense Denver did not normally have at that point in the game.

This season will be different, but it is fairly reasonable to believe Denver will improve in the turnover department, since they were very mediocre in it last season.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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