Nov 28, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) forces Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21) to fumble the ball during the first quarter of a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Without Turnovers the Detroit Lions Look Like the New Orleans Saints

The Detroit Lions have a turnover problem. It is an issue that has been brought up on this site and others, and is plainly obvious to anyone who has watched the Lions over the past five games.

The turnover problem is a central issue in the Lions’ quest for their first division titles since 1993. They need to correct the problem.

But what if they do?

It might sound like a silly question but really, what happens if they suddenly are able to curtail their propensity to turn the ball over?

I pondered that question as I sorted through some NFL team stats wondering if simply limiting the turnovers could vault the Lions into contender status in the NFC.

As it turns out, the raw offensive and defensive yardage numbers make the Lions look a lot like the New Orleans Saints. The Lions are averaging 6.1 yards per play on offense compared to 6.0 for the Saints. On defense, the Saints come out a bit better with an average of 5.3 yards per play compared to the Lions’ 5.6. Both offensively and defensively, the Lions and Saints are neighbors in the overall NFL team stats.

Which brings us back to the turnovers where the Lions and Saints have each forced 17. The entire difference in the two teams’ turnover margin is on offense. The Lions have five games this season in which they have turned the ball over three or more times. The Saints have done that just once. The Lions are 3-2 in those five games while the Saints escaped with a win over the 49ers in their 3-turnover game.

Use the Saints turnover-plagued win to cancel out one Lions win and you’re left with a difference of two wins between the two teams – exactly as the current standings show.

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