How do you determine a good team versus a bad team? As Bucs fans we look to quality on the defensive side of the ball. We share this with teams like the Ravens, Bears, and Seahawks. Other teams focus on offensive dominance like the 49ers, Cowboys, Saints, and Colts.
One good indicator across the board is often the number of turnovers and the turnover differential. Take a look at the numbers this season.
Bucs (an astounding 30! Five more than the next worse!)
The Best at Turnover Differential
The Worst at Turnover Differential
It’s a pretty good correlation, but you do see a few outliers in each group. The Steelers, for example. How are they winning while exhibiting such losing traits? I think it’s fairly easy to look at the Browns and see they are developing a potential winner.
If we look at the Bucs we can draw a very direct line between their giving the ball away and losing, their failure to create turnovers and losing, and their failure to do both! And looking at the wins the Bucs have left on the table we can draw a direct line to turnovers as the cause, most of which have come from the QBs. The crazy part (much like the Steelers winning while being a bottom five TO differential team) is how close the Bucs have been to still winning while being historically awful in this category!
Here are the Bucs 7 losses on the season and the turnovers in each:
Steelers 30-27 (Bucs 4 TOs, Steelers 1 TO)
Bears 48-10 (Bucs 3 TOs, Bears 0 TO)
Falcons 34-29 (Bucs 2 TOs, Falcons 0 TO)
Bengals 37-34 (Bucs 4 TOs, Bengals 0 TO)
Panthers 42-28 (Bucs 2 TOs, Panthers 0 TO)
Washington 16-3 (Bucs 4 TOs, Washington 0 TO)
Giants 38-35 (Bucs 4 TOs, Giants 0 TO)
When assembled for viewing these numbers are every bit as frustrating as watching this team lose for the last few seasons. With the exception of one game on that list, the Bucs were in a position to pull out a win in every other game. They had trouble stopping the Panthers in the first meeting but were within one score in the 4th quarter. With the proficiency of the offense this season, you could once again draw a direct line to possessions and winning. If we had just had one more scoring possession in 4 of these games, we could’ve had wins. The Washington game is one of those bizarre outliers that happens to every NFL team each season, losing a game while basically doing all of the winning things.
I have been on the coaching change bandwagon at times during this season. Looking at this and how close we may be, should we really fire Dirk? Duff has certainly made a difference with the defense lately. Jameis has been the single largest component to the team’s success, or lack of, during the past four seasons. He has been playing winning football the past two weekends. He hasn’t been careless with the ball, and the Bucs are winning.
Per Footballreference.com, “As it turns out, the importance of winning the turnover battle has been remarkably static throughout NFL history. Last year, teams that won the turnover battle won 78% of their games. And from 2007 to 2016, teams that won the turnover battle won 78% of their games. In the decade of the ’70s, when turnover rates were much higher, teams that won the turnover battle won 78% of their games. From 1950 to 2016, the average winning percentage of teams that won the turnover battle was 78%, too.” I think that very well explains our dilemma. Now we just need to figure out the cause and make that change.