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In 2017, Bills held steady in toxic differential

Posted Jan 19, 2018

The Bills can largely thank their secondary for their solid showing in toxic differential in 2017.


For Bills fans, the 2017 campaign will be a season to remember, primarily for the end of the team’s lengthy playoff absence. With the numbers from the 2017 season now in the books, we can begin to see how all the changes that took place under head coach Sean McDermott impacted the team’s performance in certain areas.

For the last few years Buffalobills.com has taken a look at where the Bills have ranked in toxic differential, an advanced metric that places a premium on turnover margin and big play differential.

Toxic differential is calculated by taking a team’s turnover margin, big run play differential (plays of 10 yards or more) and big pass play differential (plays of 25 yards or more) and adding those three figures together.

By no means is it an end all, be all statistic, but year after year some of the more successful teams in the league sit near the top in toxic differential. Last season, the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons and AFC and Super Bowl champion New England Patriots ranked third and second in toxic differential respectively.

In 2017, 12 of the top 16 teams in toxic differential reached the playoffs, with all 12 of those teams boasting positive figures for that metric. In fact, the top two teams in toxic differential this season will be meeting up in the NFC title game this weekend in Minnesota and Philadelphia.

So how did Buffalo fare this season?

The Bills finished in a tie for 12th with their Wild Card opponent Jacksonville. Both clubs finished with a plus-eight toxic differential. Both clubs benefited from a strong turnover differential. The Jaguars were a plus-10 and the Bills a plus-nine for the season.

Both teams were on the negative side when it came to big run plays for and against with Buffalo a minus-seven and Jacksonville a minus-one. This, despite the fact that both teams had strong rushing attacks.

Although Buffalo had the 31st ranked passing attack they had a positive big pass play differential, thanks in large part to their top-flight secondary. The Bills had 24 big pass plays of their own and surrendered just 18 (plus-six). The Jaguars were a minus-one in that category.

The Bills toxic differential of plus-eight is identical to their figure in 2016 when Buffalo ranked 11th in the league.

Their highest ranking since the metric has been calculated came in 2015 when they were fourth in the league with a mark of plus-35.

That figure would’ve been good for third in the league this season behind only Philadelphia (plus-36) and Minnesota (plus-44).

Taking a look at Buffalo’s division opponents, New England was just ahead of the Bills at plus-10 to rank ninth, but the Jets and Dolphins were in the bottom half of the league.

New York ranked 20th with an even mark of zero in toxic differential.  

Miami, however, had a horrific showing when it came to toxic differential. A turnover-prone Jay Cutler at quarterback combined with a poor run defense combined to produce the worst toxic differential in the league. The Dolphins were dead last in toxic differential with a mark of minus-46.

Since the statistic has been measured starting in 2009, only three NFL clubs have ranked at the bottom of the league with a toxic differential worse than this year’s Dolphins. The 2009 Raiders (-51), 2011 Buccaneers (-71) and the 2013 Jaguars (-48).

TEAM TOXIC DIFFERENTIAL
1 - MINNESOTA 44
2 - PHILADELPHIA 36
3 - SEATTLE 34
4 - NEW ORLEANS 25
5 - L.A. RAMS 17
6 - L.A. CHARGERS 14
7 - ATLANTA 11
7 - BALTIMORE 11
9 - NEW ENGLAND 10
10 - KANSAS CITY 9
10 - DALLAS 9
12 - BUFFALO 8
12 - JACKSONVILLE 8
14 - CAROLINA 7
15 - PITTSBURGH 6
15 - TENNESSEE 6
17 - DETROIT 5
17 - CHICAGO 5
19 - SAN FRANCISCO 3
20 - NY JETS EVEN
21 - GREEN BAY MINUS-11
21 - DENVER MINUS-11
23 - WASHINGTON MINUS-13
24 - ARIZONA MINUS-15
25 - HOUSTON MINUS-18
25 - CLEVELAND MINUS-18
27 - INDIANAPOLIS MINUS-24
28 - CINCINNATI MINUS-25
28 - OAKLAND MINUS-25
30 - TAMPA BAY MINUS-29
31 - NY GIANTS MINUS-33
32 - MIAMI MINUS-46

FEATURED PHOTOS