Playoff Caliber Litmus Test

Brian Billick and Jim Mora discussed on NFL.com what makes a playoff caliber team.. 

There are many statistics to judge a team and their success over the course of a season but Mora and Billick have a unique formula to classify a quality team called the “Toxic Differential.”  The formula is devised by the turnover differential (takeaways versus giveaways) and plays of 20 or more yards (plays made versus given up).  Here is the list of the top 5 teams for the “Toxic Differential” test:

Team

 Turnover Differential 

 Big Play Differential 

 Toxic Differential 

Steelers

+11

+26

+37

Eagles

+15

+15

+30

Chargers

-5

+32

+27

Giants

-1

+25

+24

Bucs

+9

+11

+20

The positive is: yes the Giants are amongst the top of the class in the NFL in this test due primarily for their ability to both create plays over 20 yards and limit yards over 20 yards.  The concern is the obvious, the turnover differential of -1.  Mora goes onto point out that “10 year studies have indicated that the 2 most critical variables are turnover differential and explosive gain differential.”  If a team can win “both turnover differential and the explosive gain differential the chances of you winning that football game were in the 90th percentile.”  Norv Turner aside, this is probably why the Chargers are 6-6 given they have a turnover differential of -5.

This past Tuesday we discussed the concerns of Carl Banks about the defense giving up big plays.  As we head into the stretch run, that will define playoff caliber teams.  The big plays on offense have obviously dropped off without their big play threat, Hakeem Nicks.  But the differential will be a good barometer for the defense moving forward.  Let’s look at the last 4 games and how they performed under this test:

Team

 Turnover Differential 

 Big Play Differential 

 Toxic Differential 

Dallas

-2

0

-2

Eagles

-5

-3

-8

Jaguars

+1

+2

+3

Redskins

+5

-1

+4

 Total (last 4 games) 

-1

-2

-3

What is striking is how badly they performed against the Eagles in this test.   Striking that the Giants were in this game up until the Eli flub fumble.  The only other significant statistic lay with the penalties.  The Eagles had 10 penalties for 119 yards while the Giants had 6 for 54 yards.

Let’s also look at their losses and how they performed in this test:

Team

 Turnover Differential 

 Big Play Differential 

 Toxic Differential 

Colts

-2

-1

-3

Titans

-3

+6

+3

Dallas

-2

0

-2

Eagles

-5

-3

-8

 Total (4 losses) 

-12

+2

-10

 
Something this test doesn’t uncover is the stupid penalties and bonehead mistakes that were committed against the Titans, as they had a positive result of +3 in “Toxic Differential.” This also may give credence to why they had proximity in the Eagles game.

What we can take from this is optimism.  We are now showing signs of “all hands on deck” to increase our big play capability.  Their losses account for almost 40% of their season turnover total of 31 while their turnover differential has improved over the last 2 games.  Finally, they only lost the big play differential 2 times all season (vs the good QB) which, by the way, adds some weight to Pete’s observations in his post on Thursday.

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