If you’re like Browns offensive tackle and snort-laugh-worthy tweeter Joe Thomas and Roger Goodell’s extension that’ll pay him approximately twice as much as Tom Brady makes per season is grinding your gears, cheer up: as of this week, the New England Patriots are currently rocking the league’s fourth-best turnover differential.
Sitting pretty at a +9 turnover differential as of Week 13, the only three teams higher than the Patriots all, coincidentally, reside in different divisions of the AFC.
The Baltimore Ravens rule the turnover ratio charts at +14, thanks to their unreal 20 picks and 9 forced fumbles, and despite His Eliteness Joe Flacco’s well-documented love for backyard gunslinging, Baltimore’s thrown “only” 11 interceptions of their own and fumbled the ball 4 times.
Sacksonville checks in at number 2 in turnover differential, picking off 16 passes so far - five of them courtesy of a Mr. Benjamin Roethlisberger in one game - and forcing 9 fumbles. On the other side of the ball, the Jags’ obvious belief that three things can happen when Blake Bortles throws a pass and two of them are bad has ended up with Jacksonville boasting a tidy 8 picks and 11 fumbles through 13 weeks of football. That’s good for a +12, just one away from...
...The L.A. Chargers, who’ve ridden their beastly edge rushers and a surprisingly good secondary (to us, anyway) to 15 interceptions and 6 fumbles, while amazingly only giving the ball away 10 times ALL SEASON. That’s good enough for a +11 so far, and the 7 interceptions and 3 fumbles that the Chargers have given away, no sarcasm, deserve some love, especially after the way their game with Jacksonville ended.
New England, like we said before, has a +9 turnover ratio that they arrive at in a rather unique, and very Belichick-like manner - the defense isn’t racking up picks like, say, they used to when Peyton Manning came to town, but they’ve still intercepted 11 passes and knocked out 6 fumbles.
The rest is easy: when the offense has the ball, they don’t give it back.
Despite Tom Brady’s back probably being tired from having to carry the whole dang team for the first, oh, I don’t know, half of the season, he’s still amazingly only thrown 4 interceptions while simultaneously taking more shots 20 yards down the field than ever. Yes, more than 2007. We did the math. So did Pro Football Focus. Everybody relax.
New England’s skill position dudes are also holding onto the ball to an extent that might drive some other AFC fans to start theorizing about deflated balls again - they’ve only coughed the ball up on fumbles that were recovered by the opposing team 4 times all year.
Put that all together, and you get the Patriots current +9 turnover differential, and hey, just for fun, let’s see how a few of the more recent Patriots teams ended the season in that department.
Given New England’s absurd and eminently hatable streak of six straight AFC Championship Games, that seems like a good place to start, right?
2016: +12, good enough for 3rd in the NFL. Of course, I don’t need to remind you that Brady only threw 2 picks after coming back from his DeflateGate mandatory time off, right? Good, just checking.
2015: +7, still enough for 5th in the league.
2014: +12, and the team’s horrific start this year makes it awfully impressive that they were still 2nd in the NFL in turnover differential. Only Green Bay, the preseason darling to head to the Super Bowl, was better - two better, to be exact, at +14.
2013: +9, still decent, but for a reminder just how absurdly loaded the 2013 Seahawks were, Seattle paced the league this year at +20. Twenty!
Having said that....
2012: +25. Not a typo.
2011: +17, still third overall in the NFL that year, so, not too shabby, especially given the state of the defense (if you want to call it that) that year.
With three division games and arguably the best game of the entire regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on deck, if New England can keep controlling the ball like they have, it’ll surely make life in January a whole lot easier.