As far as NFL coaches are concerned, the No. 1 predictor of a game’s outcome is turnovers – creating them on offense and limiting them on defense.
And the Seattle Seahawks’ opponent this week, the New England Patriots, are one of the best in the league in doing both through the first five weeks of this season.
The Patriots are tied for first in turnover differential with Atlanta at plus-10. New England has forced 14 turnovers – six interceptions and eight fumbles – while turning the ball over only four times through five games.
Even better, New England’s offense has done a good job of turning opponent miscues into points, scoring 38 points off takeaways.
Unlike the Patriots, the Seahawks have not done a good job in the turnover battle, with a minus-1 turnover differential – tied for 17th in the league. The Seahawks have created seven turnovers on defense and have turned it over eight times on offense.
“We’ve just got to get out of our own way,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said after Sunday’s win over Carolina, in which his team turned the ball over three times in the third quarter. “If we can do that, then we’re going to be OK.”
While the Seahawks have been sloppy at times on offense, Seattle’s defense has done a good job of limiting the damage. The Seahawks have allowed just 17 points off turnovers.
Seattle was much better at winning the turnover battle last year, finishing No. 5 with a plus-8 turnover differential in 2011. The Seahawks created 31 turnovers last season.
But New England was even more successful at winning the turnover battle in 2011, finishing No. 3 in the league with a plus-17 differential.
Seven of the top 10 teams in turnover differential made the playoffs last season, so it’s a stat worth tracking as Seattle continues its march toward a possible postseason berth, starting this week with a much-anticipated matchup against New England.
“We already know that’s going to be a great challenge,” said Seattle defensive end Red Bryant, who received some interest from the Patriots in free agency before re-signing with the Seahawks during the offseason. “But I think we’ll get back, get ready for the preparation and see how we’re going to attack them, and go from there.”
SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
1:05 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field
Against the Seahawks: This is the 16th meeting between these teams, with New England holding an 8-7 advantage in the series. The Seahawks have won five of the past seven contests, but the Patriots won the most recent meeting, a 24-21 New England victory at CenturyLink Field on Dec. 7, 2008.
Stats and stuff: New England quarterback Tom Brady will get his first career start at CenturyLink Field. In his 13th season, Brady is third in the league in passer rating (102.8), sixth in passing yards (1,450), seventh in completion percentage (67.0) and tied for eighth in touchdown passes (8). Brady has thrown one interception this season. … Brady’s favorite target this season has been Wes Welker (38 catches for 484 yards, 1 TD), followed by Brandon Lloyd (28 for 321 yards, 1 TD) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (23 for 295 yards, 3 TDs). … Running back Stevan Ridley leads New England in rushing with 490 yards on 102 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. The Patriots are No. 3 in the league in rushing, averaging 165.4 yards a contest. … Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones leads New England in sacks with three. … Former Seahawks receiver Deion Branch, for whom Seattle received a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft from the Patriots two years ago in a trade back to his previous team, is with New England again. Branch, 33, was released during the final preseason roster cuts, but he was brought back three weeks ago to bolster New England’s receiver depth after injuries to Julian Edelman (hand) and tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle). Branch has three catches for 36 yards. Hernandez is expected to play Sunday.
Quotable: “It’s awesome. It takes a lot of pressure off (Tom) Brady. And that’s our leader.” – Ridley on the emergence of the Patriots’ running game. PATRIOTS’ SCHEDULE
Sept. 9 Patriots 34, Titans 13
Sept. 16 Cardinals 20, Patriots 18
Sept. 23 Ravens 31, Patriots 20
Sept. 30 Patriots 52, Bills 28
Oct. 7 Patriots 31, Broncos 21
Sunday at Seattle
Oct. 21 N.Y. Jets
Oct. 28 at St. Louis
Nov. 4 Bye
Nov. 11 Buffalo
Nov. 18 Indianapolis
Nov. 22 at N.Y. Jets
Dec. 2 at Miami
Dec. 10 Houston
Dec. 16 San Francisco
Dec. 23 at Jacksonville
Dec. 30 MiamiEric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org @eric_d_williams blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks email@example.com