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NFC Playoffs Best and Worst: Turnovers

No stat is more important than turnovers. Here's how the Green Bay Packers and the rest of the NFC fared in that critical part of the game.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Win the turnover battle, win the football game.

No stat in the NFL means more than takeaways and giveaways. You know that. Everyone knows that. Here’s the proof:

– This season, the team that came out on top in turnovers went 166-41-1. That’s an 80.0 percent success rate.

– Go plus-2 or greater, and it becomes a winning percentage of 86.3.

– In the last decade of playoffs, the team that won the turnover battle went 58-20, a winning percentage of 74.4.

– The Packers won the turnover battle in 11 games this season and won them all. They lost the turnover battle in three games and lost them all.

– The last five Super Bowl champions and 11 of the last 12 finished in the top eight in the league and were plus-6 or better. The exception was Denver in 2015; it went plus-4 in the playoffs, though.

There are some exceptions to the win-turnovers-win-the-game equation. Over the last decade of playoffs, the Packers are a shocking 2-4 when coming out on top of the turnover table. That includes going plus-3 in the loss to Seattle in the 2016 NFC Championship Game and plus-1 in the loss to Tampa Bay in the 2020 NFC Championship Game. That Tampa game is the real shocker; in regular-season play under coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers are 30-0 when they win on turnovers.

Here's a look at the NFC field.

No. 1: Green Bay Packers (13-4)

Plus/minus: plus-13 (third). Takeaways: 26 (eighth). Giveaways: 13 (tie, first).

Noteworthy: The Packers were plus-16 with only 10 giveaways before the backups handed it over three times vs. Detroit. Still, they became the first team in NFL history with three consecutive seasons of 13 or fewer giveaways. Their 37 giveaways during that span are tied for the fewest all-time. Meanwhile, Joe Barry’s defense improved the takeaways count from 18 to 26. Rasul Douglas’ fourth-ranked five interceptions were a big part of that increased production.

No. 2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

Plus/minus: plus-10 (sixth). Takeaways: 29 (fifth). Giveaways: 19 (tie, eighth).

Noteworthy: The Buccaneers finished 9-0 when winning the turnover battle but they’re good enough to overcome their mistakes. The Bucs went minus-3 when they beat Dallas in Week 1, and Tom Brady threw three interceptions in last year’s NFC title game but beat Green Bay. In an odd statistical anomaly, they’ve forced 15 fumbles but recovered 12, an 80 percent success rate in what’s really a 50-50 proposition.

No. 3: Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Plus/minus: plus-14 (tie, first). Takeaways: 34 (first). Giveaways: 20 (tie, 10th).

Noteworthy: Cowboys rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions. That’s more than seven teams, including the Cowboys’ wild-card opponent, San Francisco. Mike McCarthy dominated turnovers in Green Bay and he’s dominating in Dallas, too. In four games without a takeaway this year, it went 1-3.

No. 4: L.A. Rams (12-5)

Plus/minus: plus-2 (tie, 13th). Takeaways: 25 (tie, 10th). Giveaways: 23 (tie, 17th).

Noteworthy: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a league-worst 17 interceptions, including seven the final three games. They went 8-0 when they won the turnover battle. When they lost to Tennessee, San Francisco and Green Bay – three playoff teams in three consecutive games – they were minus-5.

No. 5: Arizona Cardinals (11-6)

Plus/minus: plus-12 (fourth). Takeaways: 27 (seventh). Giveaways: 15 (fourth).

Noteworthy: The Cardinals lost the turnover battle only three times this season, going 1-2. They were minus-3 in the loss to Green Bay. With a combined 14 from outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden and inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the Cardinals finished second with 20 forced fumbles. Offensively, they were first with only four lost fumbles.

No. 6: San Francisco 49ers (10-7)

Plus/minus: minus-4 (tie, 22nd). Takeaways: 20 (19th). Giveaways: 24 (tie, 20th).

Noteworthy: The Niners are by far the worst team in the NFC playoff field when it comes to the turnover table. They were 1-5 when losing the turnover battle with five consecutive losses. The Niners tied for 26th with nine interceptions but they forced a league-leading 22 fumbles, led by cornerback Josh Norman’s seven.

No. 7: Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)

Plus/minus: even (tie, 16th). Takeaways: 16 (tie, 26th). Giveaways: 16 (tie, fifth).

Noteworthy: With a 9-8 record and no wins against the playoff field, the Eagles are the picture of mediocrity. And that shows up in the dead-even turnover count. They do hold onto the football, though, as they’re tied with Green Bay for fourth with just six lost fumbles. They’ve won six straight when winning the turnover battle.