Coaches don't always care for stats…but we love them! Each week, we're going to give you a closer look at three or four pieces of statistical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Buccaneers' current state of affairs.
Let's get started.
1. Well Above Average
Tampa Bay's offense is clicking; that much is obvious. The Buccaneers paced the NFL in the month of October in both yards and points per game, and are now averaging 356.6 yards and 26.3 points per contest on the season as a whole. If either or both of those hold, they will set new single-season records in the franchise's 37-year history.
If that did happen, would it definitely mean that the 2012 Buccaneer offense was the best offense in franchise annals? It's worth noting, and probably obvious even to the casual observer, that the NFL as a whole has become increasingly productive on offense in recent years. From 1980 through 2007, the league averaged somewhere between 18.7 and 21.7 points per team per game every year. However, that average has been over 22 in all but one of the last five years, and so far in 2012 it's running at what would be an all-time NFL record: 22.8. Yards per game tell a similar story. The 335.1 yards per game that NFL teams put up on average in 2009 was an all-time record until it was broken in 2010 (336.0) and again in 2011 (346.8). So far in 2012, it has gone up once again, to 351.6.
And that's how the Buccaneers are on their way to the most prolific offensive season in team history and yet rank a good but not overwhelming 15th in yards and ninth in points in the NFL.
So, to adjust for the overall rise in offensive numbers, let's compare what the Bucs have produced each year to the league average. By dividing the Bucs' yearly averages by the corresponding league averages in yards and points, we can see how well Tampa Bay's offense operated each season relative to the NFL norm. A number of 1.00 would be the Bucs exactly matched the league average, so the higher the better. Here are the top five Tampa Bay offensive seasons, in yards and then points, relative to the league average:
As you can see, in neither case is the 2012 season #1 on the list. The 2003 Buccaneers, which was a very pass-heavy team (Brad Johnson set individual Buc records for attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes), surpassed the league average by the most, with the 2008 team second. That squad currently holds the Buccaneers' record for most yards per game.
As for points, it's close. The 2000 team, which ran the ball like crazy behind Alstott and Dunn, has both the team record for points in a season and the best margin over the league average. However, it should be noted that the 2000 team also benefited from seven return touchdowns, accounting for 16.3% of all their TDs. So far, the 2012 team has two return touchdowns, which is 9.5% of its overall total. Given how close those teams are in their comparisons to the league average, and how far ahead they are of the rest of the field, it is probably safe to conclude that the current offense is the best in team history at putting up points. So far.
2. Turnover Numbers Remain Strong
There's an unusual anomaly in the Buccaneers' numbers this season, at least if you believe (as nearly everyone does) that turnovers are one of the strongest determinants of wins and losses in the NFL. There certainly has been a link for the Buccaneers; over the previous 10 seasons, the team was 55-15 in games in which it had a positive turnover ratio, 9-18 in games with an even ratio and 10-53 in games with a negative ratio.
This year, however, the Buccaneers have had a positive turnover ratio in five of their seven games (very good!) but only compiled a 2-3 record in those five outings (sort of weird). Tampa Bay lost its only game this year with a negative turnover ratio, and won the game in which it was even.
Tampa Bay is tied for fifth in the NFL with a plus-7 turnover ratio so far. The four teams ahead of them (the Patriots, Giants, Bears and Falcons) plus one of the team's they're tied with (the Texans) are all in first place in their respective divisions. If the causal effect of turnovers starts to emerge for the Buccaneers, that should be good news in the standings the rest of the way. That's because Tampa Bay has proved very good at both halves of that equation, ranking among the most sure-handed teams on offense while showing a knack for getting the ball away on defense.
The fine folks at FootballOutsiders.com have created a comprehensive Drive Stats chart that, among other teams, lists each team's turnovers per drive, both on offense and defense. The Buccaneers rank third in the NFL in lowest number of giveaways per drive on offense and sixth in highest number of takeaways on defense. That makes them one of only three teams to rank in the top half-dozen on both charts, along with New England and Atlanta.
Here are the top six in both categories:
- New England
- N.Y. Giants
- Tampa Bay
- New England
- Green Bay
- Tampa Bay
3. In Close Quarters
The Buccaneers' defense ranks 27th in the NFL in yards allowed per game but, more importantly, 15th in points allowed per game. One of the reasons is that they have tended to tighten up considerably when their opponents approach their red zones. And that's true against both the rush and the pass.
On plays run by the opponent from inside Tampa Bay's own 30-yard line, the Buccaneers are fifth in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed. Opposing teams are averaging just 10.4 inside-the-30 ground yards per game against the Bucs, and only 1.78 yards per carry. In that latter category, the Bucs have the second-best average in the league, behind only their upcoming opponent, Oakland (1.74).
On plays run by the opponent from inside Tampa Bay's own 30-yard line, the Bucs are also sixth in the NFL in opposing passer rating, at 82.9. The Bucs are tied for sixth in touchdown percentage in that part of the field, allowing a rate of 12.5%. At the same time, they are also fourth in interception percentage in that part of the field, at 6.3%. Only two of the nine touchdown passes the Bucs have allowed have come on passes starting inside the 30, which suggests that Head Coach Greg Schiano is right to focus on the team's problems with giving up long plays. It also suggests, as do the rushing totals above, that the Bucs' defense is at its best with its back against the wall.