The Buffalo Bills have been very good at forcing turnovers in 2017. The team ranks fourth in the NFL with 13 (nine interceptions and four fumble recoveries), and they feature the NFL’s co-leader in interceptions with safety Micah Hyde, who has four.
The Bills have been doing a good job at getting the ball back. What they do with it when they get it, however, is a different story.
There’s a bit to unpack with this one, so let’s start at the left. None of these numbers involve turnovers that led to kneel-downs, such as the Hyde interception of Josh McCown that ended the season-opening win over the New York Jets.
The Bills have had 11 offensive drives start off of turnovers. Only one ended with a touchdown, and that was Brandon Tate’s score in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Five ended with a field goal (most in the NFL), and another ended with a missed kick in the win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Three ended with a punt, and the final one was the train wreck of a call at the end of the first half last Sunday that left no time on the clock with the Bills in easy field goal range.
The Bills’ offense has scored off of a turnover on 54.5% of their chances (6/11), which might seem impressive but actually ties with the Jets for 17th in the NFL. Thirteen teams have scored on at least two-thirds of those drives, and two (the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos) have turned every single turnover into points.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have scored a league-high six offensive touchdowns off turnovers, and as a result they’re ten points clear of the field in total offensive points off turnovers with 50. The Bills rank 14th in that regard with a total of 22 points, but they’re only tied for 26th when you look at points scored per turnover. Generating a lot of turnovers helps to mask that, but the offense needs to be better at wringing touchdowns out of those points instead of settling for field goals.
The picture doesn’t look a whole lot better when defensive touchdowns are factored in. Tre’Davious White’s scoop-and-score against the Atlanta Falcons gives the Bills 29 total points off turnovers, which stands at 11th in the NFL. The Jaguars, with their four defensive scores, are even farther away from the rest of the league in that category; only the Detroit Lions (with three defensive scores of their own) and Los Angeles Rams (the highest-scoring offense in the NFL) are within 30 points of the Jags’ 77.
After defensive scores are added in, the Bills are sitting at 28th in the NFL with 2.42 points per forced turnover. The only teams below them are the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, and Cleveland Browns, all of which have started multiple quarterbacks in 2017. The only other team below three points per turnover is the Baltimore Ravens, who have been fairly inept in their own right this season.
Nobody’s expecting the Bills to be on the same level as the Broncos, who have turned every one of their opportunities into seven points. Of course, that’s a lot easier to do off of only three chances than it is off of 12. It’s not unreasonable, however, to expect the Bills to push a few of those field goal tries into the end zone, or at the very least understand how to run a half-ending drive in field goal range.
The final part of the chart looks at how much of each team’s points are derived from turnovers. The Bills are actually eighth in the league, with just under a quarter of their scoring coming from turnovers. That says as much about the overall lack of points they’ve generated as it does about their efficiency in creating points off turnovers.
As it stands right now, the Bills’ offense hasn’t been all that good in 2017. Unfortunately, even then they’re set up by a big play from their defense they tend to get less out of it than most other teams. Turning those turnovers into points, or turning those field goals into touchdowns, would go a long way towards ensuring the Bills’ place in the playoff chase this season.