The New England Patriots have done many things better than almost any other franchise since they hired Bill Belichick to be their coach. Arguably among the most important things they've done well is consistently win the turnover battle, year after year after year. In the 17 seasons Belichick has been coaching the Patriots his team has ranked among the top 10 in the NFL in turnover differential 13 times. In the last 10 seasons before 2016 the Patriots finished in the top 10 in turnover differential every year other than 2008, when Tom Brady was out for the year and Matt Cassell was the team's quarterback.
A big part of the Patriots' success in turnover differential has been Brady's talent for almost never throwing interceptions. But the Patriots have also been at or near the top of the league in generating defensive turnovers, even in years their defense was otherwise mediocre. Then we have the 2016 season. Brady, as usual, isn't throwing interceptions; he has the second lowest interception percentage in the NFL this year. As a result the Patriots, as usual, aren't turning the ball over on offense. Currently the Patriots are ranked 7th among NFL teams in least offensive turnovers. So far so good for the Patriots. Yet despite their usual proficiency in protecting the football on offense the Patriots are not ranked in the top 10 in turnover differential this year. In fact they rank a mediocre 15th in the category. That brings us to the Stat of the Week. The New England Patriots have generated only nine turnovers on defense in ten games in the 2016 season, the lowest turnover per game ratio in the history of the franchise. Recently the defensive turnover drought has only deepened. Stat of the Week: the New England Patriots have only generated two defensive turnovers over the last seven games of the 2016 season. That is a stunning lack of defensive turnovers for any team. It is a rate at which, if continued for an entire NFL season, would generate the lowest amount of defensive turnovers by any team in NFL history, and it wouldn't be close. The least number of turnovers any NFL defense has ever generated over a full season is 11. Over the last seven games the Patriots are on a pace that if prorated over an entire season would result in less than five defensive turnovers.
Because the offense has been so good the lack of defensive turnovers has not been particularly damaging to the 8-2 Patriots. Nonetheless, a team that generates no defensive turnovers represents the best kind of matchup for the Jets' turnover prone offense. Of course from the Patriots' perspective the Jets turnover prone offense represents the best kind of matchup for their turnover challenged defense. However, since we're Jets fans here we'll look at this from a positive perspective.
If Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense can take advantage of the Patriots defense and play a rare mistake free game at home, the Jets will have a fighting chance to pull a stunning upset. Not a great chance, of course, since the Jets' defense still will have the unenviable task of finding a way of limiting Tom Brady and the juggernaut Patriots offense. But the Jets have had a way of keeping Patriots games close, even when the Jets have not been a good team. Keep the game close, don't turn the ball over, maybe get lucky and get a rare turnover or two from the Patriots, and then the Jets might be in a position to steal a win against their arch rivals. It isn't very likely, and the better bet is the Patriots blow out the Jets on Sunday, but maybe there is a narrow path to victory presented by what has suddenly become the worst defense in the NFL in generating turnovers.