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Analysis: Predicting turnovers for the Buffalo Bills in 2021

Analytics and guesswork come together for another year!

Way back in...oh my gosh...2017 (I’ve been doing this that long?) I started tracking turnover data. Using league trends, team trends, offseason changes, and some miscellaneous stats the idea was to do my best to predict turnover differential for the Buffalo Bills’ upcoming season. And, so far, I’ve been pretty darn successful. With my own horn sufficiently tooted, let’s try to predict turnovers for the 2021 season.

Here are links to review predictions I made for the 2018-2020 seasons:

2020 Predictions
2019 Predictions
2018 Predictions


Takeaways

Last year

The chart is pretty straightforward. The Bills had 26 regular-season takeaways, which was a healthy dose above league average. Let’s see what I said they’d do:

My best guess is a slightly more disruptive line and no drop-off on the back end of the defense. I’ll be a little more firm in my guess this year and say that I think mid-20s is the floor. I don’t think a major jump is likely, but I’d be shocked with any major dip here.

I was not correct on the line. The rest of it looks good though.

2021 predictions

When I first started doing these, one of the things I looked at was the potential impact of coaching stability. Since then I’ve started examining aspects of the team such as the impact of specific skills on turnovers.

The good news is that head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier seem to be the model of how stability matters. While not usually drastically so, they’ve kept the team above average every year since they’ve arrived. Part of that seems to be the second thing I brought up. As you might have seen with some of my recent work, the players seem to be coached to create turnovers.

The Bills were the third-best team in the league this year (tied: New Orleans Saints) in this metric, only three behind the Miami Dolphins. Additionally, as you can see above, the league has been trending toward less-and-less turnovers. That means my first prediction is this: There’s no reason to think the Bills will get better than they already were. They were already phenomenal. That said, there’s no reason to think the players or coaching will stop doing what they’re doing.

So, my best guess is in the neighborhood of 24 takeaways next year.

Giveaways

Last year

Feel free to click on my 2020 predictions to read them in full, but last year I said that:

  • Turnovers would increase, “likely to the low 20s”
  • Allen would remain around 9 interceptions, though I felt he’d maintain a similar interception rate compared to 2019
  • Allen’s fumbles would still be an issue, and though he was only credited with four in 2019 I thought he was lucky it was that few

How did this compare to reality?

  • The Bills had 22 giveaways
  • Allen had ten regular-season interceptions
  • Allen had six fumbles lost

I’m patting myself on the back SO hard right now.

2021 predictions

I focus solely on quarterbacking for this segment because as you can see Josh Allen was responsible for nearly three-quarters of the team’s giveaway total. Dawson Knox’s and Zack Moss’s gaffes are the ones fans likely remember, but it’s Allen who drives the numbers.

I’m not expecting any major changes. Allen’s interception rate is still on the right side of average and stable two years running. If his total number here ever seems high it’s merely because he’s now a high-volume passer.

In three years, he hasn’t solved his fumbling problem either. That said, he’s ALSO a high-volume runner, averaging 100 attempts per season. His fumbles aren’t out of whack in comparison to other running quarterbacks either.

So to summarize, I’d expect they stay in the low 20s, with very little change from Josh Allen. Let’s be clear though. This is not something fans should be concerned with. Allen’s turnover rates are fine.