RENTON — As far as NFL coaches are concerned, the No. 1 predictor of an outcome of a game is turnovers — creating them on defense and limiting them on offense.
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 only turning the ball over four times through five games.
The Pats have lost three fumbles and quarterback Tom Brady has thrown one interception.
Even better, New England’s offense has done a good job of turning opponent miscues into points, scoring 38 points after the Patriots’ defense has taken the ball away from an opponent.
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, but offensively have turned the ball over eight times.
“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 turnover 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.”