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Teams twice as likely to turn ball over when losing by double digits

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The Patriots benefit when they run up the score!

The New England Patriots have had the best offense in the league over the past twenty seasons, in a stretch that includes 4 Super Bowl titles, 7 Super Bowls appearances, 11 conference championship games, and 15 division titles.

Teams with a good offense are able to build leads that make it far more difficult for the opposition to come back and win.

I decided to look at how often a team scores based upon the point differential at any given time in the game because I wanted to see if there were any truth to “garbage scores”. I wanted to see if teams scored more points when they trailed by a considerable amount because it would signify that defenses let up when they have a big lead.

My assumption was wrong.

Teams score more when they have a lead

It seems that teams with big leads score more than teams that trail. The more I thought about it, the less crazy it seemed. Good teams build leads and continue to score. Bad teams fall behind and lose because they can’t score as much as the opposition.

I would expect teams with quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees to regularly have leads and I would expect those offenses to continue to put up points.

I would expect teams with bad quarterbacks to fall behind and struggle to make up ground to win the game.

Why? Because teams that trail are far more likely to turn the ball over.

Teams turn the ball over when they’re behind

Whoops. Teams with a double-digit lead turn the ball over at half the rate of teams with a double-digit deficit.

Teams that trail have to risk more to catch up to the opposition and it allows opposing defenses to force more turnovers, while those with leads can become more conservative. This is why teams that often have big leads (Patriots, Packers) have such great turnover margins over the past decade.

But how can a team that risks fewer turnovers continue to score at such a noticeably greater rate?

Probably because opposing defenses have to play on their heels when trailing in the box score. A team that is trailing by two or more touchdowns is going to have to throw the ball and opposing defenses can adjust by dropping seven into coverage; it’s what the Patriots do all the time.

But teams with the lead can throw wrenches into their game plan to catch defenses off guard. They can pass on running downs and run on passing downs and drain the clock with longer drives.

I would expect some psychology to come into play as well as defenses that trail could be susceptible to giving up and letting the opposing offense run up the score.

A potential takeaway could be in fantasy football leagues, for those interested in potential steals- find players on teams that lead a lot because they’ll have a higher chance of scoring.

What are your thoughts?