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ESPN thinks Matthew Judon will be the Patriots’ X-factor in the NFL playoffs

Related: Bill Belichick on playing the Bills a third time this season: ‘Each game has its own unique circumstances’

New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Matthew Judon’s first year with the New England Patriots has been a success. Not only did he get voted to his third Pro Bowl, the linebacker also has adapted quickly to the team’s scheme. His 12.5 sacks are both a career-high and a big reason why New England has qualified for the playoffs.

Heading into the tournament, he was now named the Patriots’ X-factor by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert:

X factor: Matthew Judon, OLB. It’s not often that you see a player elevate his productivity after signing a significant free-agent contract, but that’s exactly what happened after Judon signed last spring with the Patriots. He produced a career-high 12.5 sacks, tops on the team, and gave the Patriots their first double-digit-sack season since Chandler Jones in 2015. Judon will be a key to any winning defensive effort in a playoff game.

Judon has been an impressive player for the Patriots thus far, but he has gone through a bit of a late-season slump — one that may or may not have been tied to a short stint on the Coronavirus list. Regardless of the reasons behind it, the 29-year-old has failed to record a sack in four straight games.

If he can return to his usually disruptive form, New England’s defense will be that much tougher to defend.