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True Turnover table, Week 11: Buccaneers have more INTs than rest of NFC South combined

November 22, 2018

Every year there seems to be one Week 1 game that looks absolutely absurd when we go back and revisit at season’s end.

No reason to wait. We have our candidate.

Tampa Bay 48, New Orleans 40 is your game. It’s actually kind of ridiculous to think about that game now.

Since then, the Saints have not lost any of their nine games and are perhaps the best team in the NFL. The Bucs started out 2-0, then 3-3, but they’ve fallen hard since then — in last place in the NFC South at 3-7. The Bucs’ loss to the Giants on Sunday was the latest indication of where they currently lie in our NFL power rankings: stunningly close to the bottom.

But there’s one list on which Tampa Bay is dead last — our True Turnovers table. With a league-worst 35 True Turnovers committed on offense (more on this below) and a mere 14 True Turnovers forced by their defense, they have fallen way below every other NFL team at a stunning minus-21 differential.

And, fitting enough, the Saints top our list at plus-17 for the season. Here’s the entire chart through Week 11:

For a reminder, we calculate True Turnovers as not just interceptions and fumbles, but also missed field-goal attempts and fourth-down stops. The Bucs don’t really excel in any one category. But they really struggle in one in particular.

Tampa Bay’s 23 interceptions are by far the most by an NFL team this season. The next-highest are the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets — both of whom have been quarterbacked at times by rookies — with 16 apiece.

But for a wild perspective, consider this: The Saints, Falcons and Panthers combined have a mere 11 interceptions on offense this season, less than half of what Jameis Winston (11) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (12) have combined for. Heck, Fitzpatrick alone has more than those three teams together.

If the Bucs move on from head coach Dirk Koetter, it will be very interesting to see what direction they go for his replacement. But finding someone who can instill some discipline might be pretty wise, considering these numbers.

Their fumbles lost (six) are on the high end; only seven teams have more. They’ve missed four field-goal attempts, which isn’t attrocious until you realize they’ve only tried 15 all year.

Defensively, they’ve combined for only six fumbles and interceptions taken away, which is second-to-last behind the San Francisco 49ers. The fewest combined INTs and forced fumbles last season were 13 by the Browns, and the Bucs are on pace to finish this season with fewer than that.

Imagine where they’d be on this list if they hadn’t been respectable on fourth downs so far. They have forced six fourth-down stops, which is tied for the third-most in the NFL, and are 8-for-10 converting fourth downs on offense. Without that edge, they’d be minus-24 in True Turnovers.

Last year’s basement team overall? Again, it was the Browns at minus-35. You probably need no reminder, but that team went 0-16.

If the Bucs are indeed sticking with Winston for 2019, getting him to cut down on these picks is absolutely crucial.

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