Bucs bucking trend with takeaways, losses
You hear it from coaches all the time: Among the statistics most closely linked to winning and losing is turnover margin. Win the turnover battle, more often than not, you're in position to win a football game.
This year's Bucs are an odd exception to that wisdom -- Tampa Bay is at plus-10 in turnover margin after 12 games, yet finds itself 3-9 in the standings, showing little parallel between turnovers and the scoreboard.
How rare is that? To find the last time an NFL team finished plus-10 in turnover margin and simply had a losing record -- let alone 3-9 -- you have to go back to the 2004 Panthers, who finished 7-9 with a NFC-best plus-12 turnover margin. From 2005-12, the NFL had 37 teams finish plus-10 or better and every single one had at least eight wins -- to be specific, only the 2006 Rams had eight wins and the rest had at least nine. Those 37 teams won an average of 11.8 games in the regular season.
This year's plus-10 teams include three teams in position to make the playoffs -- Seattle (11-1), Carolina (9-3) and Dallas (7-5) ... and the Bucs (3-9).
Much the same way, the Bucs are leading the NFL with 17 interceptions, a statistic that usually bodes well for a team's win-loss record. From 2005-12, in all eight seasons, the team that led the NFL in interceptions won at least 10 games -- last year's Chicago Bears, at 10-6, were the only one among those eight that didn't win at least 11. Again, the team that ends the streak is the 2004 Panthers, who opened the year 1-7 before rallying for a 6-2 finish, including two wins against the Bucs. From 2003-12, the 10 teams that led the NFL in interceptions averaged 11.7 wins.