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True Turnover table, Week 10: Bears-Vikings, Chiefs-Rams games show wide disparity

November 15, 2018

We typically look back at what has happened to the current point of the season in our weekly True Turnover series, but we thought it might be interesting to use the past results to project how two of the bigger matchups in Week 11 might fare.

There are a number of interesting games this week, but Vikings at Bears and Chiefs at Rams ( in L.A. now, not Mexico City any longer) really could come down to which team wins the turnover battle — and as always, we’re not talking just fumbles and interceptions. Our True Turnover metric also weighs missed field-goal attempts and fourth-down failures because, after all, those are just as much turnovers as the others are.

Let’s start with the Bears, who have become a terrific takeaway defense. They have forced eight fumble recoveries, 16 interceptions and five fourth-down stops to this point, generating 29 True Turnovers. What’s remarkable about that number is that it’s only one fewer — though nine games, mind you — than the 2017 Bears created all season. (And that also came with three missed FG tries last year; so far this season, opponents have missed zero attempts against them.)

They host the Vikings Sunday night in a game that has major implications on the state of the NFC North, with first place hanging in the balance. The Vikings remain in the race with both their offense and defense having shown marked improvement over earlier phases of the season. But one area in which Minnesota is still lagging is in giving more possessions away than it’s taking.

The Vikings’ current True Turnover differential is minus-3. Defensively, they’ve forced 20 True Turnovers, which ranks them tied for 14th most in the league. But offensively, they have committed 23 True Turnovers, which are tied for the eight-most in the NFL.

Part of the problem has been kicking, with Daniel Carlson (who has been cut) and Dan Bailey each missing three tries, plus the team’s eight lost fumbles. Only three teams, the Jaguars, Eagles and Packers have given away more fumbles; Kirk Cousins has been the main culprit, with six of the Vikings’ eight fumbles lost.

Expect the Bears to send pressure at Cousins and to try to exploit this. Even with the Vikings taking better care of the football lately than they did from Weeks 2 through 6, it would be stunning to see the Bears not swiping at the ball if they can pressure him.

The Chiefs top our True Turnover differential through Week 10, at plus-14. But the Rams, as good as they’ve been this season, sit only at plus-2 (tied for 14th best).

Patrick Mahomes has thrown seven interceptions, but the Chiefs have only three other True Turnovers (in 10 games) for the entire season. That’s remarkable — and it’s no surprise that they’re tied with the 9-1 Saints with the fewest of any team this season, at 10.

The Rams’ TT total is 17 on offense, which puts them near the middle of the NFL pack (tied for 12th fewest). Of course, five of those have come on missed field goals (with injuries at kicker) and another five on fourth downs. We don’t expect Sean McVay’s aggressive nature to change anytime soon, so that latter number isn’t too concerning, especially with their firepower.

But the Rams are also not forcing a ton of True Turnovers on defense. Their total of 19 puts them tied for 13th most, while the Chiefs have forced 24 of them, the fifth-most in the NFL. Say what you will about the Chiefs’ defense, but part of the reason they’ve improved on that side of the ball is by taking the ball away from opponents and gaining key stops when needed.

In close games that appear evenly matched on paper, the turnover differential can make all the difference.

Here’s the entire True Turnover table through Week 10 in the NFL:

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