RB James White: The most exploitable weakness in the Texans defense could be their linebacker coverage. Both their ILBs are good at filling in against the run, but lack the speed to keep up with RBs and TEs in coverage. That's where the shifty James White can turn into a weapon. White had a phenomenal garbage time performance against the Eagles and could be looking at the prospect of at least 10 touches in this game. The Patriots will likely use a timeshare of Blount, White, and Bolden with Blount doing most of the running and the checkdowns, White doing checkdowns and short routes, and Bolden running deeper routes to maximize the speed that makes him a top ST player in the NFL. James White will likely get the most targets and receptions of the bunch and will exceed 100 yards in this game.
CB Malcolm Butler: It's near unprecedented to list the team's top CB as an X-Factor, but the Patriots will face their toughest WR challenge of the season in Deandre Hopkins. Their other receivers aren't near as threatening on the field as Nuk, which means Butler will match up on him. I'm not too worried about the other matchups with Logan Ryan covering journeyman WR Nate Washington and recent addition Leonard Johnson potentially getting a nickel role this week. The Patriots probably trust Butler enough to go 1-on-1 and shade McCourty a step or two towards Hopkins side of the field to help over the top. Butler has faced Odell Beckham Jr, Emmanuel Sanders, Eric Decker, Antonio Brown, and Desean Jackson this season with encouraging results. Hopefully Butler continues to do what he does best, rise to the challenge and fight back no matter how many times you knock him down.