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Turnover Deficit Not Hindering Cardinals

Numbers of note after the Week 5 victory over the Jets

New York Jets linebacker Avery Williamson intercepts a pass by Kyler Murray in a regular season game on Sunday, October 11, 2020.
Jets linebacker Avery Williamson secured the only turnover on Sunday but the Cardinals still won, 30-10.

The Cardinals have played five games this season, and the only time they won the turnover differential was the Week 2 victory over Washington.

They lost it for the third time on Sunday in New York, as Kyler Murray threw an interception and the defense did not have a takeaway.

That usually spells trouble, as a study by Harvard found that a team with just a plus-1 turnover differential wins 70% of the time (and it goes up from there).

However, the Cardinals have now beaten the 49ers and Jets despite finishing minus-1 in differential, and only lost to Detroit by a field goal despite a minus-3 differential. They are minus-4 overall this season, with seven giveaways and three takeaways.

The success speaks well of the Cardinals' overall talent level. They have outgained four of their first five opponents and have a point-differential (+26) that is superior to the 4-0 Bills, the 3-0 Titans, the 4-1 Browns and the 4-1 Bears.

The Cardinals' defense is last in the NFL in turnover percentage, forcing them on 3.8 percent of drives, but the team is fifth in points allowed at 20.4 per game.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph lamented a lack of interceptions before the Jets game, and being more advantageous would surely help. However, the Harvard study also found that more than 50% of seasonal turnover differential is luck.

If the turnover margin starts going in the Cardinals' favor, it will help in their push for the playoffs.

Other numbers of note following the Week 5 win over the Jets:

  • Analytics types put a lot of stock in a quarterback's completion percentage over expectation, because it helps explain accuracy moreso than just the standard number. Kyler Murray had a CPOE of +10.4 against the Jets, completing 73% of his passes when the expected number was 62.5%. That was third-best in the NFL behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ben Roethlisberger. Murray is No. 7 in the NFL this season in CPOE, which is a good reminder that his dual-threat capabilities are some of the rarest the league has ever seen.
  • Running back Kenyan Drake seemed to miss some holes early, and that was backed up by the data. According to the NFL's NextGenStats, Drake amassed 35 fewer yards than expected against the Jets. He finished with 18 carries for 60 yards, a 3.3 yards-per-carry average.
  • Running back Chase Edmonds' usage continues to tick upward. He was on the field for 45 percent of the offensive snaps against New York, the most for him in a game this year. The backup running back had season-highs in rushing yards (36) and receiving yards (56) on eight touches.
  • The Cardinals moved up five spots in Football Outsiders' offensive efficiency, to No. 20, after a fantastic showing against the Jets. They sit at No. 19 in overall DVOA, with their current playoff odds sitting at 38.9%.