What Is Turnover Margin?

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  • Written By: Jim B.
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2019
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Turnover margin is a statistic used in sports to determine whether a team is turning the ball over more than it is receiving turnovers from the opposing team. A turnover occurs when the offensive team gives up the ball accidentally to the other team before their possession is complete. This particular statistic is used in many sports but most prominently in basketball and football. Calculating the turnover margin requires subtracting the amount of times a team has turned the ball over in a game from the amount of times the opposing team has turned it over.

There are many statistics used in the sports world by teams and fans to determine the causes for winning and losing. In sports like basketball and football, where possessing the ball is so important, turnovers are crucial. A team that limits the amount of turnovers that it commits while maximizing the amount of turnovers they force from the other team will have a distinct advantage in the contest. For that reason, turnover margin is an important statistic to track.


As an example of how this statistic is calculated, imagine Team A playing a football game against Team B commits four turnovers. Team B commits six turnovers in the game. For Team A, the four turnovers they committed is subtracted from the six they received, giving them a turnover margin of plus-two. By contrast, Team B has a margin of minus-two, since they committed two more turnovers than they forced. This statistic is always measured with plus representing a positive margin and minus representing a negative margin.

In football, turnover margin is important as a way to determine the teams that protect the ball on offense and do damage on defense. If a team turns the ball over, either by fumbling or throwing an interception, they lose their chance to score. There is also a good chance that they are putting the opposing team in a good position to score.

Basketball turnovers are committed in many ways, including steals, violations like offensive fouls, traveling, and double dribbling, and failing to get a shot off in the allotted time. A team that commits many turnovers loses their chance to score by shooting at the basket. If a team can force defensive turnovers, it can keep the opposition from scoring and potentially start a fast break for an easy basket themselves. For those reasons, a good turnover margin is often the hallmark of a championship team.


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Post 2

@nony - I agree. You’ve got to have a strong defense if you want to limit your propensity to turn over the ball to the other team. An impenetrable defense will make it nearly impossible for the other team to advance, even if they have good quarterbacks.

I attended a high school football game where the underdog team won for that very reason alone. The team with the advantage had strong quarterbacks, but they couldn’t get many touchdowns because the under rated team built up a strong defense, and forced a turnover through multiple interceptions.

Post 1

Often times a good NFL turnover margin is the thing that moves a football team to the top of the heap and leads them to win the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl usually pits two teams that are generally equally matched. What causes one team to win is whether it can minimize its mistakes while forcing the other team to make more mistakes.

During the game sometimes you will see a graphic flash on the screen that will show the turnover margin statistics. If I were a betting man, I would use turnover margin as a factor in my calculations on which team to bet on, not simply which team has the most star studded players.

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