To say that turnover margin is a critical win-loss determinant in the NFL is to state the obvious, and to quote just about every coach in history. Just to put a few numbers on it, over the last decade (plus the first four games of this season) the Bucs are 56-17 when they have a positive turnover ratio, 9-18 when it’s equal and 10-54 when they have a negative turnover ratio. Just working the two extremes, that’s a massive difference in winning percentages of .611 (.767 versus .156).
So why bring up the importance of turnovers now, when it’s true every week. Well, the Bucs’ next opponent has had difficulty holding onto the football through the first five weeks of the season, and the team is sure to be concentrating this week on taking advantage of that issue.
The Kansas City Chiefs will bring the league’s worst turnover ratio in 2012 to Raymond James Stadium next Sunday. Kansas City had four giveaways in their 9-6 loss to Baltimore on Sunday – while the Bucs, enjoying their bye week – watched on network TV – bringing their season total to 19. With four takeaways on the other side of the ledger, the Chiefs have a -15 turnover margin that is worst in the NFL by more than double the 31st-ranked team. Actually, Dallas and Philly are tied for 30th with equal marks of -7.
Turnovers have clearly been the main reason for Kansas City’s 1-4 start. The Chiefs actually have the NFL’s fourth-ranked offense and 13th-ranked defense, averaging 402.4 yards per game while allowing 326.8. But the giveaways have both held down their own scoring and led to easy points for their opponents, which is why, when ranked by points for and against, the Chiefs are tied for 24th on offense and are 27th on defense.
In fact, Kansas City’s 19 turnovers have led directly to seven touchdowns and six field goals, or almost exactly half of the points they’ve allowed.
The Buccaneers have just one win so far, as well, but they’ve actually protected the football fairly well. Tampa Bay ranks 10th in the NFL in turnover ratio, with a +3 mark. Thirteen teams have taken the ball away more times than Tampa Bay (8) but the Bucs have also given it back only five times.
The issue for the Buccaneers on Sunday, should Kansas City’s turnover woes continue, will be to take advantage of them on the scoreboard. The Bucs have turned their eight takeaways into just four touchdowns. Despite the incredible connection between takeaways and victories pointed out in the first paragraph above, the Bucs are just 1-2 this year in games in which they win the turnover battle.