Lovie Smith’s Den of Thieves

Most football stats managers are well aware of the importance of the turnover differential. Historically, the teams with the highest rotational differentials fill the playoffs and often win it all.

The stat is so telling that a high rotation differential can elevate a bad team to good team status, good to great.

Not only does Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith know this, he religiously preaches it to his players. And that sermon has been making disciples among Texas players since Smith arrived in H-Town.

From the year before Smith led the defense through the end of last season, the plus/minus swing was +12 in favor of the Texans. 25 takeaways in total, that’s very solid. Unfortunately, the team also gave away the ball 22 times, scoring a plus, albeit barely, +3 differential on the season.

In 2021, the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts led the league with a +14 differential. The Cowgirls made the playoffs, the Baby Horses stayed home, having punched above their weight class but not far enough. Possible superbowl winner Los Angeles Rams had a +2 differential in the regular season.

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No stats in the NFL mean more than takeouts and freebies. You know. Everyone knows that. Here is the proof :

– This season (2021), the team that came out on top in turnovers went 166-41-1. That’s an 80.0% success rate.

– Go plus-2 or more, and that becomes an 86.3 win percentage.

– Over the past decade of the playoffs, the team that won the turnover battle went 58-20, a 74.4 winning percentage.

– The Packers won the turnover battle in 11 games this season and won them all. They lost the turnover battle in three games and lost them all.

– The last five Super Bowl champions and 11 of the last 12 have finished in the top eight in the league and have scored plus-6 or better. The exception was Denver in 2015; he went plus-4 in the playoffs, however.

For anyone wanting further proof of how important turnovers are, look no further than the Houston Texans’ 2022 preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints. In the low-scoring opener, where two interceptions led to points for the opposing team and a late turnover gave the Texans the win.

If Smith can continue to turn this defense into a den of ball-stealers and help Davis Mills and the offense reduce the volume of freebies, the Texans will top their weight class this year.

JJ Watt’s first was full of blue-collar defense, but what put him on the map was a legendary interception he came home to in the playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Watt’s batting style in hopes of generating turnovers was a key part of the last truly dominant defense the Texans fielded.

With Lovie Smith pounding the “give me the ball” drum at her defenders, maybe, just maybe we’re getting closer to that level of dominance once again.

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