AFC reigns supreme with turnovers

The AFC has stolen most of the NFL's best teams. More accurately, the AFC teams are stealing the football.

Heading into this weekend's playoff games, AFC playoff teams Indianapolis, New York, San Diego, New England and Pittsburgh rank first, second, third, fifth and eighth in the NFL in turnover margin. The best NFC playoff team in regard to turnovers is Seattle, which ranks ninth.

The AFC playoff team not mentioned in that list is Denver. The Broncos rank 24th in the league in turnover ratio at minus-9. That figure is the reason why the Broncos barely made the playoffs despite ranking fifth in the league in offense and fourth in defense.

"Football teams that finish in the plus column are going to be playing in January — and we know that," Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. "That is the key to winning and losing."

On one end of the spectrum, the Indianapolis Colts are charging into the postseason. Peyton Manning isn't the only reason why they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The defense ranks 29th in the league in yards allowed but is tied for third with 36 forced turnovers. With that, the Colts rank 18th in scoring defense at 21.9 points per game, plenty good enough with the prolific Manning-led offense.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Packers' defense ranks 25th in the league in yardage and tied for last with 15 forced turnovers. With that, the Packers rank 23rd in the league at 23.8 points per game. In their six losses, the Packers had six takeaways and 21 giveaways.

"I've said many, many times you can play bad football and win the game if you don't turn the ball over," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "I've always felt that. You can play great football and turn the ball over and lose. So, we have to be able to hang onto the football."

Hanging onto the football is the problem for the NFC teams. Top-seeded Philadelphia ranks 11th with a plus-6 ratio. Second-seeded Atlanta is only plus-2. Third-seeded Green Bay is minus-14. Fourth-seeded Seattle is plus-9. Fifth-seeded St. Louis is an overwhelming minus-24. Sixth-seeded Minnesota is plus-1.

In the AFC, top-seeded Pittsburgh is plus-11. Second-seeded New England is plus-9. Third-seeded Indianapolis is plus-19. Fourth-seeded San Diego is plus-15. Fifth-seeded New York is plus-17. Sixth-seeded Denver is minus-9.

"The absolute thing we've always insisted is that you don't turn the ball over because there's an energy level there that's negative to you and positive to the opponent," said Chargers coach Marty Schotteneheimer.

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