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What toxic differential tells us about the Bucs

The Bucs had eight "explosive" plays against the 49ers last Sunday. Jacquizz Rodgers was responsible for four of them (runs of 11, 12, 45 and 16 yards). [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
The Bucs had eight "explosive" plays against the 49ers last Sunday. Jacquizz Rodgers was responsible for four of them (runs of 11, 12, 45 and 16 yards). [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Oct. 27, 2016

In Tuesday's Tampa Bay Times, Greg Auman wrote about Bucs coach Dirk Koetter's belief that explosive plays are a critical component of success in the NFL.

Koetter defines "explosives" as pass plays of 16 or more yards and run plays of 12 or more yards.

The Bucs have executed 42 such plays this season, which is tied for 21st in the league. They've allowed 50. That minus-8 differential is tied for fourth-worst.

Koetter's explosives metric is similar to toxic differential, a statistic that former Ravens coach Brian Billick has discussed on the NFL Network and NFL.com. The toxic differential Billick cites defines explosive plays as plays of 20 or more yards. Others have adjusted the formula and defined explosive plays as passes of 25 or more yards and runs of 10 or more yards. In this post, we'll go by the adjusted formula.

In addition to explosive play margin, toxic differential incorporates a team's turnover margin, a statistic closely correlated to win percentage. This season, teams that have had a turnover margin of at least plus-1 have won 73 percent of the time.

Through six games, the Bucs have a minus-3 explosive play margin. Add to that their minus-3 turnover margin and the Bucs have a minus-6 toxic differential, which is tied for ninth-worst in the NFL.

The Raiders, the Bucs' opponent Sunday, have the league's second-worst explosive play margin (minus-12) but, along with the Bills, have the second-best turnover margin (plus-8). Oakland's minus-4 toxic differential is the 11th-worst.

The Patriots (plus-21) are the league's best team while the 49ers (minus-17) are the worst.

Toxic differential tends to be a more meaningful measure of a team's strength than statistics such as yards gained or yards allowed. Ten of the top 12 teams in toxic differential last season reached the playoffs. Ten of the top 15 teams in 2014 reached the playoffs.

Here are this season's top 10 teams and their records:

TeamToxic differentialRecordPlayoffs if season ended today
1. Patriots216-1Yes
2. Broncos175-2Yes
3. Falcons144-3Yes
4. Cardinals83-3-1No
4. Cowboys85-1Yes
4. Chiefs84-2Yes
7. Seahawks74-1-1Yes
8. Vikings65-1Yes
9. Ravens53-4No
9. Eagles54-2Yes
24. Bucs-63-3No

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.