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The Patriots X-Factor for rest of 2021 NFL season, and it’s not Mac Jones

Mac Jones, New England Patriots X-Factor

After having a shaky start to the 2021 NFL season, the revamped New England Patriots have already turned things around by winning three straight games heading to Week 10. With a 5-4 record, Bill Belichick and his men continue to be in the hunt for a playoff spot in the AFC and are only a game behind the division-leading Buffalo Bills.

Certainly enough, all eyes will be set on rookie QB Mac Jones who has already been putting up impressive outings in just his first year in the league. High expectations will surely be set on him as he tries to carry the team on his back in their bid to secure a playoff spot. However, the Alabama product can’t do it alone as he will also need some of his teammates to step up and shoulder the load on both ends of the field.

All of that being said, here is New England’s X-Factor for the remainder of the 2021 NFL season:

Patriots X-Factor

Without a doubt, cornerback J.C. Jackson has already proven that he is one of the best young ballhawks in the league today. Currently in his fourth season in the pros, the 25-year-old has now emerged as a leader of the team’s secondary, especially after the departure of 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore.

With his defensive abilities and high level of anticipation, opposing receivers are finding it hard to catch deep balls and put up points against his coverage. In fact, the budding cornerback has already proven over the years that he can keep up with Pro Bowl receivers like DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, and Stefon Diggs, among others.

Last week, Jackson put up another stellar performance as he recorded two interceptions along with a tackle against the Carolina Panthers. His production on the defensive end was crucial for the Patriots as they limited the offensive production of their opponents and ran away with a 24-6 win on the road.

Jackson’s latest output has now propelled him to the second spot in the league leaders in interceptions where he currently shares a tie with Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard with five for the season. With eight games left in their campaign, the cornerback is still on track to exceed the nine total interceptions that he recorded last year.

Without a doubt, Jackson’s ability to disrupt plays in the passing game of their opponents was one of the main reasons why the Patriots kept him on a second-round restricted free-agency tender back in April. He certainly didn’t disappoint and has already made a case for himself to lock up a huge contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the upcoming offseason. Along with his high level of production, he is also a great fit with the team’s rugged playing style which has been working wonders for them through the years.

Looking back, Jackson was only a hidden gem who was picked up in training camp as an undrafted free agent back in 2018. He has worked his way to have a title under his belt with the team’s Super Bowl LIII victory and his championship experience will surely help him and the rest of his team moving forward.

Certainly enough, the Patriots will need all their pieces on both ends of the field to produce and be effective as they aim to return to the playoff picture this season. With a tough Bills squad to overcome in the AFC East, J.C. Jackson is expected to step up and deliver for New England for the remainder of their campaign.

Just like Mac Jones, the production of the cornerback will be crucial in determining the level of success that the retooled Patriots can achieve in 2021.