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Who Are the X-Factors on Sunday in the Patriots – Jets Game?

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
October 23, 2015 at 6:22 am ET

Who Are the X-Factors on Sunday in the Patriots – Jets Game?(PHOTO: Jim Dedmon - USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Oct 23, 2015 06:22
🕑 Read Time: 5 minutes

The Patriots and Jets are set for a fantastic chess match on Sunday pitting the top defense  against one of the top offenses in the NFL. While the storylines have been the usual Tom Brady vs Darrelle Revis, that is a tad too simplistic and an approach the Patriots under Bill Belichick are unlikely to use.

The Patriots never attack the strength of an opponent, instead they try to identify or create mismatches against an opponent’s weaknesses. So seeing Brady line up and trying to target Revis isn’t only a dumb proposition, it is not going to happen.

Will they test Revis on occasion?, surely but always carefully so don’t expect to hear his name called much on Sunday. The Patriots have traditionally gone the other way in terms of trying to attack the Jets defense.

On the offensive side of the ball for the Patriots and the defensive for the Jets who are the “X-Factors” who will go a long way in determining the outcome of this matchup? We’ll start the Jets defense first:

Buster Skrine – The Jets slot corner has been one of the best free agent signings this season after coming over from Cleveland. Playing mostly inside, it is was one of the tougher assignments in the NFL as it usually means that the slot corner has to cover the smaller, quicker targets in the passing game.

Skrine has been outstanding in this regard thus far in 2015. With the Jets playing in their nickel packages in over 62 percent of the snaps thus far, Skrine has been on the field, and contributed…a lot.

Having already added (or returned to the fold) Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside, the Jets beefed up their number one problem on defense from the year before. Skrine gives them the versatility and physicality to matchup with any offense. The Jets show all kinds of different looks, 4-2-5, 3-3-5 and more in their sub-packages and having three outstanding corners gives them the versatility to match up anywhere.

Another facet of his game that bears watching is his blitzing. Jets defensive backs have blitzed more than anyone else this season and prior to the Washington game, Skrine had blitzed on 18 of those. He’ll have to be accounted for as he lines up the same way each time and opposing quarterbacks don’t know if he’ll come off the line or not.

Skrine suffered a concussion on Sunday against the Redskins and after not practicing on Wednesday; he was back on the field on Thursday, albeit in a red non-contact jersey. That is always a positive sign and I expect he’ll be cleared an on the field on Sunday afternoon.

He’ll draw a combination of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman as the Patriots slide each of them both inside and outside depending on the situation. If he is unable to go on Sunday, I would expect Amendola to get a lot of attention from Brady against either Marcus Williams who has been bothered with a hamstring injury or second year corner Dexter McDougle a primarily special teams contributor who played his first snaps of defense last week against the Redskins and did well.

So who is the “X-Factor” for the Patriots defense this week?

Scott Chandler – Chandler was a nice pickup for the Patriots this season as he always enjoyed great success against them when he was a member of the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots already have the premiere tight end in the NFL with Rob Gronkowski, but Chandler gives them an even bigger target for Tom Brady to utilize, especially in the red zone. Chandler is 6’7, 270 pounds to go along with Gronkowski’s 6’6, 265 and the two worked tirelessly with Brady during the spring and summer trying to get their rhythm and chemistry flowing.

Chandler hasn’t been a big target thus far in 2015, as the Patriots have used more “11-personnel” with 1 RB, 1 TE and 3 WRs on the majority of their snaps offensively. Facing the Jets this week, the matchups favor the Jets if they go strictly with that package. Look for New England to play more of their “12-personnel” package this week; with 1 RB, 2 TEs and 2 WRs.

This could be a week where Chandler could see more targets than he’s had in the first five games as this particular package could give the Patriots more flexibility in attacking the Jets defense. Lining up either in-line or split, they’ve move both Gronkowski and Chandler around the formation and it gives them the ability to either run the ball or throw depending upon the pre-snap reads by Brady.

By using both Chandler and Gronkowski who is always a big focus of opponent’s game plans in the passing game, it negates some of the Jets speed in the slot and gives the Patriots a decided size advantage. If nothing else it will force the Jets to react to them rather than let them dictate.

With Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell just coming off of PUP this week, it is unknown if he’ll even be active on Sunday. He’s a big target and a chains mover who was a favorite target for Brady in 2014. He’d be the guy they’d matchup with Cromartie if he’s 100 percent which would be good one to watch.

Recent addition, Keyshawn Martin is suffering from a hamstring injury as was a limited participant in practice on Thursday. Running back Dion Lewis is still limited with an abdominal injury so he may not see a lot of looks in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how the Jets decide to defend him when Brady puts him in motion and splits him out wide.

But for the Patriots, Chandler may see a lot more action this week. Edelman and Gronkowski always draw lots of attention. Edelman will see his former teammate Revis on most snaps and Gronkowski will draw attention from lots of different combinations of safeties and linebackers. Chandler is a good option to find some operating room.

The chess match between the Jets and Patriots will be a fun one to watch as two of the top units on either side of the ball meet for the first time this season at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Expect both teams to adjust as the game goes on.

Another key area to watch will be the scoring in the third quarter; the Jets have allowed zero ….yep zero points in the third quarter this season. Who leads the NFL in third quarter scoring? New England leads the league, averaging 10.2 points per game in the third quarter. You can’t make up stuff this interesting.

This should be a great game on Sunday and we’ll be here with all the updates as they occur both during and after the game. Be sure to check out Ian Logue’s stat sheets as well as the rest of the great content here on

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Antonio Cromartie Brandon LaFell Buster Skrine Danny Amendola Darrelle Revis Julian Edelman Keyshawn Martin New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Rob Gronkowski Scott Chandler Todd Bowles Tom Brady

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