Good News and Bad News: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lead NFC In Turnover Margin, Still 4-9


Nov 24, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks (27) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a unique distinction of being only one of two teams in the NFL with a positive turnover margin and a losing record (the St. Louis Rams are the other team. So how did this happen?

Let’s start with the good news.

The turnover margin for the Buccaneers currently sits at +13, which is first in the NFC and second in the NFL behind Kansas City. The Buccaneers have achieved this turnover margin by snagging 21 interceptions and eight fumbles on defense, while only throwing ten picks and coughing up six fumbles of their own.

The creation of turnovers has been a welcome sight for the Buccaneers, who managed only 26 turnovers all of last season (they’re already at 29 with three games to go in 2013). Part of this can be attributed to the addition of Darrelle Revis, who cuts the field in half for opposing quarterbacks and makes reading the quarterback that much easier.

Dec 1, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) intercepts a pass in the third quarter. The Carolina Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-6 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It can also be attributed to the way Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and others are getting after the quarterback, forcing bad throws and keeping quarterbacks out of rhythm.

And it’s also a byproduct of the aggressive scheme on defense which Greg Schiano and Bill Sheridan have brought to town. Lots of blitzes and stunts to confuse quarterbacks and lots of tight coverages to make throws tougher.

But the team has a losing record despite having the second-best turnover margin in the NFL. That’s the bad news.

So how have they accomplished such a poor record despite a good turnover margin?

Much like the other team with a good turnover margin and a winning record (the Rams), the Buccaneers lack a consistent, play-making quarterback and don’t have an offense capable of capitalizing on the field position and extra drives created by turnovers. The Tampa Bay offense ranks near the bottom in almost every statistical category, so apart from taking care of the football, they don’t get much done.

Football Outsiders ranks the Tampa Bay offense 22nd in the league, while Pro Football Focus’ cumulative grades rank them 26th. Using more basic stats, the numbers are even worse, as the Buccaneers lead only the Jaguars and rank 31st in total yards, while ranking 30th in points per game.

Obviously, the Buccaneers made a quarterback change during the season and have been starting a rookie at the position, and are missing their number two receiver, number one running back, and All Pro left guard.

But there have also been numerous questionable decisions in terms of playcalling, and the rookie third-round pick under center that was the apple of the head coach’s eye has yet to deliver consistent performance indicative of a starting QB in the NFL.

Not to mention, the defense has seen an increase in missed tackles per game, which is allowing big plays for offenses on drives that don’t end with a turnover.

So there’s good news and bad news for the Buccaneers, and either one can be attributed to the players and the coaches. This will lead to plenty of difficult decisions this offseason at One Buc Place.