Heading into Thursday night's game, there were just three teams in the NFL who were among the league's top 10 in both offense and defense. Just three teams that were among the league's statistically proficient on both sides of the ball.

The Cowboys (3-5), the Lions (4-4) and the Broncos (5-3) are the three. But what was once considered a sign of balance for a playoff hopeful is now an uncertain gauge at times.

Dallas has not looked like a playoff team at any point since the Cowboys' opening-week win over the Giants. Detroit has beaten just one team that currently has a winning record — Seattle, at 5-4.

And the Broncos have steadily climbed from 2-3 to their current spot at the top of the wobbly AFC West with a three-game winning streak.

Which brings us to the reason a cliché becomes a cliché — because it comes up over and over again.

And turnovers are the NFL's cliché, with coach after coach, player after player, week after week, season after season talking about the importance of "the turnover battle." Commence eye-rolling if you need to, but it's been true before and it's true again.

It's also the reason the Broncos, despite all of the good they have done in winning three of their last four games, cannot yet be considered at the front of the line in the playoff chase. They are considered to be a potentially tough out in the postseason because of what Peyton Manning brings to the table. But until they get their turnover issues in order, they will not be all they can be.


Advertisement

At the moment, the Broncos are 23rd in the league in turnover margin at minus-4, a total boosted significantly by 10 lost fumbles in eight games. The 10 teams at minus-4 or worse so far are a combined 33-49 (.402).

Among those 10 teams, the Broncos and the Colts (5-3) are the only teams with a winning record.

The league's top 10 teams in turnover margin before Thursday night's game kicked off to open a new NFL week are a combined 55-25 (.688).

Broncos coach John Fox 2012
Denver is 23rd in the league in turnover margin at minus-4. Broncos coach John Fox said, "That's one thing when you look at it, that always has an effect on what you're doing." (Denver Post file)

Seven of the eight division leaders at the moment are among top 10 in the category, ranging from plus-16 to plus-3. The only division leader not among the best in turnover margin is the AFC West-leading Broncos.

The Bears (7-1) lead the league with a staggering 28 forced turnovers. The Bears are tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries — with New England at 11 — and are tied for the league lead in interceptions, with the Giants.

But the Falcons (8-0) are also fourth in turnover margin, at plus-10. The Texans (7-1) are sixth at plus-8.

"That's one thing when you look at it, that always has an effect on what you're doing," said Broncos coach John Fox. "We'd like to get those things cleaned up. We've done better as we've gone along and that's your goal to keep improving and we talk about those things all the time. We'll keep working on those things."

It is a must for the Broncos because any continued improvement on offense, any improved play on defense will be lost in the bottom line of turnovers.

At least that's what the numbers always say.

Jeff Legwold: jlegwold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jeff_legwold