Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY

Carolina Panthers Finish First in the NFL in Toxic Differential

One of the reasons the Carolina Panthers finished the year with the best regular season record was because they excelled in what is called the 'Toxic Differential' and finished the regular season first in the league in this category.

The Carolina Panthers have had a winning formula all season, winning 16 out of 17 games this year. One of the reasons for the success is because they have dominated in the Toxic Differential, finishing first in this category with a score of 54 according to Sporting Charts.

This stat was created by former Super Bowl winning coach Brian Billick, which takes a look at two key stats, turnover differential and big play differential. The article quoted Billick as saying, ""It’s not merely good enough to avoid turning the ball over; you need to generate big offensive plays as well."

The Panthers have done an excellent job all season of not only forcing turnovers, but protecting the ball on offense and not giving it back to the other team. The Panthers finished first in the league, according to ESPN, in interceptions with 24, led by Kurt Coleman with seven and Josh NormanLuke Kuechly and Thomas Davis with four a piece. Meanwhile Cam Newton had a career year in this category with only 10 interceptions all season and threw only one interception over the final eight regular season games, based on Newton's game log.

The turnover differential is only half the stat as it also takes into account the big play differential, which looks at passing plays over 25 yards and running plays that go for more than 10 yards. The Panthers' offense finished below average in generating big pass played, finishing 17th in this category with tight end Greg Olsen leading the way with 12 and Ted Ginn Jr. adding seven. However, the defense played very well in this regard giving up the third fewest big pass plays with only 25 on the year.

It was actually the run game that provided the biggest boost as they had 64 plays that went for more than 10 yards with Jonathan Stewart accounting for 24 of them and Cam Newton adding 20.

This stat is very telling as it shows a strong balance between being an explosive offense with a defense that eliminates these kind of plays. It also shows a team that can protect the ball but at the same time force opponents to make mistakes.

The article notes that over the past 15 years a majority of the teams that finish in the Top 10 have gone on to win the Super Bowl. This certainly bodes well for the Panthers' chances as they attempt to win their first Lombardi Trophy.

*All stats courtesy of Sporting Charts unless otherwise noted.

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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