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During his daily press conference Friday, Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett mentioned that turnovers are the number one statistic when it comes to winning.
With that in mind, here is a look at last year's NFL leaders:
2013 Turnover Differential Leaders (season record in parentheses)
1. Seattle +20 (13-3)
2. Kansas City +18 (11-5)
3. Indianapolis +13 (11-5)
4. San Francisco +12 (12-4)
Philadelphia +12 (10-6)
6. Carolina +11 (12-4)
7. Tampa Bay +10 (4-12)
8. New England +9 (12-4)
9. St. Louis +8 (7-9)
Dallas +8 (8-8)
There's not a perfect correlation between a team's turnover differential and its record, but it's close. Tampa Bay is the obvious outlier; the Bucs had a 4-12 record despite the seventh-best turnover differential in the NFL. But when you look at all 16 games, it's easy to see how that happened.
In nine of their games, the Bucs had the same amount of turnovers as their opponent, and they were 1-8 in those games.
In four of their games, the Bucs had more takeaways than their opponent, and they were 3-1 in those games (in these games, Tampa was a combined +14 in turnover differential).
In three of their games, the Bucs had fewer takeaways than their opponent, and they were 0-3 in those contests.
That's what Garrett was talking about when he said turnovers are the number one indicator for winning - it's on a game-by-game basis, not the season as a whole. The Cowboys were +8 for the season, and five of those came in the first game of the year, when the Giants turned the ball over six times in a 36-31 Cowboys win.
It's obvious to say that winning the turnover battle is going to be very important for the Cowboys. That's true for every team. But in the case of the Cowboys, they absolutely need to create turnovers because their defense is so bad.
It was the third-worst unit in NFL history a year ago (in terms of total yards allowed), and with DeMarcus Ware gone and Sean Lee injured for the season, there's no reason to believe the defense will be much better this year.
The Denver Broncos had a 0 turnover differential in 2013, but made it to the Super Bowl behind maybe the greatest offense in NFL history (Peyton Manning had the best regular season of any quarterback, with a record 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards). That kind of a special unit can make up for an average turnover differential.
The Cowboys had a good offense last year (good, not special), they had a good turnover differential, and they had a horrible defense. That turned into 8-8.
Dallas made turnovers a focal point in training camp last year, and it paid dividends. Garrett said that won't change during this year's camp in Oxnard.
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