Yet another stat in which the Patriots rule the NFL roost: turnover differential. At plus-18 they are slightly ahead of the Colts (plus-16) and are on pace to eclipse the 2003 franchise record of plus-17.

Yet another stat in which the Patriots rule the NFL roost: turnover differential. At plus-18 they are slightly ahead of the Colts (plus-16) and are on pace to eclipse the 2003 franchise record of plus-17.

The Pats are tied for seventh in takeaways with 28 (17 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries) but the real key to their success has been their death-grip on the ball. They have a league-low 10 giveaways (six INTs, four fumbles). Only Indy (three) has lost fewer fumbles, and only Tampa Bay (five) has thrown fewer picks.

In each of coach Bill Belichick's first seven seasons, the Patriots coughed the ball up at least 24 times, so this is quite an improvement.

The lack of fumbles speaks to the sure-handedness of the running backs (no lost fumbles in 326 carries) and the generally air-tight pass protection (fewer strip sack opportunities against Tom Brady, who has fumbled five times, losing three).

The lack of INTs is a reflection of how on-target the passing game has become. Brady, who is completing a career-high 70.2 percent of his passes, had thrown 12 or 14 picks in each of his previous six seasons as a starter, but with Randy Moss, Wes Welker and company zipping through secondaries now it's becoming hard for defenses to force him into bad decisions or hurry him into bad throws.

"You just hope that every player will do everything he can when he has the ball to secure it and take care of it," Belichick said. While Belichick said that some giveaways are unavoidable, "You try to avoid the ones that are just careless."

Belichick said the Patriots analyze their turnovers every offseason, looking for ways to improve.

"We always look at the teams who lead the league in those categories -- fewest turnovers on offense, most turnovers on defense -- (and) try to see if there's any kind of trend or correlation or any thought or idea that might come up that we could utilize," he said. "Maybe it's just seeing another player, his technique of getting the ball out or situations that he looks to get the ball out."

Wright stuffed

Losing reserve defensive lineman Mike Wright for the season is not as big a blow as linebacker Rosevelt Colvin being shelved for 2007, but it does have an impact.

The Patriots are down to five D-linemen with Jarvis Green and Le Kevin Smith the lone backups. Smith has been inactive for three of the last four games but that figures to change on Sunday.

"We hate to lose Mike," Belichick said. "Mike's done a good job for us (in) both the regular and sub-situations. He's played inside and outside. He's got some versatility.

"Le Kevin's done that, too. (He) just doesn't have quite as much experience. He's improved a lot over the last year and half, two years now. He's played outside, he's played inside, he's a smart kid (and) he runs well. He has some size and he's gaining experience. If he gets an opportunity, I'm sure that he'll be ready to try to take advantage of it."

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was noncommittal about the possibility of linebacker Adalius Thomas playing defensive end if the Patriots wanted to show more 4-3 looks.

"It really depends on the (opposing) team and what all they do. It really is more of a tactical question that I can answer based on a particular team because you just can't play the same front, necessarily, against somebody that maybe shifts a lot or doesn't shift a lot ... It would be too hard for me to answer quickly. We could do it in some situations and not in others so there's always that possibility."

Troy biding his time

Troy Brown still hasn't made his 2007 debut. He's been a game-day inactive for each of the last two weeks after being promoted off the PUP list. Maybe he'll get his shot against the Jets on Sunday. In the meantime he said he's enjoying the 13-0 start.

"Any competitor wants to be out there in the game," Brown said. "I'm out there and I'm doing my job, doing what I have to do, they're doing what they have to do. The guys are doing well. As far as that's concerned, when the team is doing well, that knocks the frustration level down quite a bit. The guys are winning, so you can't help but be happy. It's a good atmosphere around here now. Everything is fine."
  
Let it snow

The Patriots practiced in snow flurries on Thursday -- potentially a sneak peek at what they can expect in Sunday's game.

"Whether it will have application on Sunday or not, I don't know," Belichick said of the workout. "I'm not really worried about it. If it does, it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Maybe it will some other time. I don't know."

The Patriots are 9-0 all-time in snowy games in Foxboro with six of those games bunched between 2002-05, starting with the "Snow Bowl" playoff win over the Raiders. The Pats' last snow game was a 16-3 win over the Jets on Dec. 4, 2005.

Yates out  

Reserve G Billy Yates will miss the Jets game with a foot injury. Four other Patriots are questionable - RG Stephen Neal (shoulder), S James Sanders (knee), LB Mike Vrabel (thigh) and TE Benjamin Watson (ankle). All four were limited in practice Friday.

The Patriot Ledger