In this matchup between the Patriots and Dolphins there are two numbers that stand out that speak to the relative position -- the strengths and weaknesses, if you will -- each team is enjoying and suffering.
The Patriots are an astonishing plus-24 so far this season. That's the best in the NFL.
The Dolphins are at minus-10, which means they have turned the ball over 10 more times than they've collected turnovers. That ranks Miami tied for 27th in the NFL.
"I wish we were better, no question about it," coach Joe Philbin said.
Philbin definitely wishes the statistic is better on Sunday when the teams meets. If the Patriots play as they have and don't make mistakes while the Dolphins play to their turnover stat and give up one or two, that's a bad day for Miami. It makes the likelihood of winning much less probable.
"We’re playing a team that’s plus 24 and we’re minus 10," Philbin said. "That pattern is not good; that can’t continue on Sunday and be a good thing for us. So we have to do a great job of ball security and find a way to take the ball away from them. That’s going to be a key to the ball game, no question about it."
The Dolphins number is not good but it is much more attention-grabbing when compared to New England's plus-24. The next closest teams to the Pats are Chicago and the Giants and they are at plus-13.
Tom Brady, for example, has thrown 421 passes and has only three interceptions.
"It’s something we talk about a lot," Brady said. "There’s nothing more important than possession of the football. Our defense has done an incredible job taking it away. The offense has done a great job of keeping the ball away from the defense. It’s a point of emphasis every day in practice. It’s a point of emphasis going into every game, like most teams.
"It’s probably the one stat that correlates to winning and losing more than any other. It’s good that we’re in the plus-20s, but what we’re trying to do is get the edge in this game. Nothing that we’ve done this year means anything going into this game. We have to go out and try to put together a good performance this game. Hopefully we’re ahead in the turnover margin in this game as well."
Brady's care for the ball on Sunday must be matched by Tannehill who so far has have four times as many interceptions (12) in nearly 100 fewer throws.
“That’s impressive," Tannehill said of Brady's interception number. "When you’re able to take care of the ball like that, throw accurately and throw for that kind of yards and the amount of touchdowns he has, to go along with that, it’s impressive. I think he’s continued to get better and progress throughout his career and hopefully I can learn from that."
Why do the Patriots have such a good turnover margin? More importantly, why don't the Dolphins?
I blame part of it on the Miami defense. They don't catch interceptions. I can think of five interceptions they've dropped this year. That would cut their number in half. And Miami's running backs have lost five fumbles compared to only one by the Patriots.
"I believe they are the best in the football at protecting the ball offensively, so that’s a real credit to the players and staff," Philbin said. "Number two is they’re second in football, one behind Chicago I believe, at taking the football away. They catch the interceptions; they knock the ball loose on fumbles and come up with the ball. They do a great job. It’s impressive."
Better not be on Sunday if the Dolphins hope to win.