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Keys to the starting lineup presented by CarMax: Brady's 400th, unfamiliar Jaguars on tap

New England looks to improve to 3-0 with the bye week on the horizon, but a young Jaguars team stands in the way.

As the theory goes, Bill Belichick's Patriots (2-0) are at their best when the coach has a handle on the opposition and can draw up a game plan based on familiarity with said foe.

That's certainly not the challenge Belichick and his team face this Sunday at Gillette Stadium against a Jacksonville squad that's anything but a familiar foe. New England hasn't played the Jaguars since 2012. They've never faced off against the current coaching staff or young passer Blake Bortles.

In many ways, it's the opposite of the situation the Patriots had last week preparing for Rex Ryan and the Bills.

As such, Belichick emphasized that New England would have to work extra hard this week to get to know the personnel and schemes that the Jaguars (1-1) bring to down. He described Gus Bradley's team as "young and hungry" on multiple occasions.

That may be true, but is the team that won just three games a year ago really talented enough to come into Foxborough and pull off what would be a massive upset? That's the question facing the defending Super Bowl champs as they bounce back from an emotional win in Buffalo and before they head into the early Week 4 bye.

Patriots Football Weekly's Andy Hart shares his players to watch during the Patriots Week 3 game against the Jaguars.

After all, it was a year ago this week that a Raiders team that would go on to win just three games itself marched into Gillette Stadium and pushed the Patriots to the limits in a 16-9 New England escape.

One connection the Jags have to that Raiders team is offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who held the same title in Oakland last fall. That, though, may actually aid the Patriots preparations, as could the team's knowledge of the Seahawks defense from last February, which is where the roots of Bradley's Jacksonville schemes lie on that side of the ball.

Maybe the unknown favors the Jaguars, maybe not. But it's clear the talent, experience and early season execution favor the Patriots. Of course looking ahead in the NFL can lead to major problems in a league that experienced endless unexpected upsets as recently as this past Sunday.

It's why they play the games. And why we all watch.

Speaking of which, here are a handful of key factors to watch for in Sunday's afternoon affair between the upstart Jags and the playmaking Patriots in Foxborough:

G.T.F.B.! - The actual meaning of this acronym for a Belichick defensive philosophy is not family-friendly. So we'll call it the Get The Free (safety) Back approach. The idea is relatively simple, don't allow big plays and don't allow opponents to get behind you on defense. One of the only hopes the Jaguars have to pull off the big upset would be through the big play on offense. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is averaging a crazy 26 yards a catch through two games. He had a pair of scores last week. He's a big body who can go up and get the ball for Blake Bortles. The quarterback himself can make big plays with either his arm or his legs. He's somewhat of a combination of the two quarterbacks the Patriots have faced in the first two weeks - Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor. The Jaguars are only converting 30.8 percent of third downs. Bortles completes just 54 percent of his passes. So long, error-free drives are an unlikely plan of victory for Jacksonville. At the very least, the Patriots need to bend but don't break. Or, said another way, G.T.F.B.!

Feeling out process - There is something legitimate to be said about the fact that the Patriots players and coaches aren't overly familiar with the Jags personnel and schemes. That could make for a bit of a feeling out period early in the game. There may be a need for a few in-game adjustments for a few series on both sides of the ball as New England gains a feel for how the game is going to play out. Of course, the same is true for a Jaguars team that's facing a tough task on the road against a similarly unfamiliar opponent. In that way, they're on equal footing. Which means that talent should win out. 

A record day - The most important record that will be notched on Sunday from the Belichick perspective is the third win for New England. But there are other statistical marks worth watching. The biggest is the fact that Brady's next touchdown pass will be his 400th. He'll be just the fourth player to pass that plateau joining Peyton Manning (533 and counting), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420). That's pretty impressive company and shows that Brady measures up statistically with the all-time greats, not just in terms of winning, where he dominates the debate against all those not named Bradshaw or Montana. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is going for his own impressive record. The All-Pro has hit 419 consecutive PAT attempts and needs just four more to pass Matt Prater (422) for the most all time. When Gostkowski does break the record, likely on Sunday, it may never be challenged given the new distance for the kicks that has made it a lower-percentage play.

Gronk and Sergio back "in the club" - The last time Rob Gronkowski and former Patriot Sergio Brown faced off the All-Pro tight end nearly threw the then-Colts safety into the stands on a block. Brown was apparently doing a lot of talking on the field and Gronk told NBC afterwards that he just threw him "out of the club." Brown was also the guy rushing the PAT in Foxborough when Gronkowski broke his arm, the first phase of a string of injuries. Last year, Brown actually bragged about his matchup with Gronkowski a day later on Twitter, including what some thought were references to his being responsible for breaking Gronk's arm. Right now the tight end is the most dominant pass catcher in the game. He's indefensible. With fellow safety Jonathan Cyprien injured, Brown may be asked to spend a lot of time defending Gronkowski once again. That should be good for the Patriots and bad for the Jags. It might also ignite another entertaining battle between the two, even though Gronkowksi downplayed that angle this week.

Run-dimensional - The Patriots run defense just hasn't been good enough to open the season. Through two games New England is allowing 5.7 yards per carry on the ground. Ouch. Dont'a Hightower openly talked this week about needing to be better against the run in an effort to make opponents one-dimensional. This might be a good week to start that against rookie running back T.J. Yeldon who is averaging just 3.3 yards a carry in his first two games as by far the Jaguars leading ball carrier. The Patriots need to be better up front and if they can do that against Jacksonville it will put even more pressure on Bortles, who already has his hands full. The second-year starter has been sacked at least four times in eight straight games. The Patriots lead the NFL with 11 sacks, including eight last week. If New England shuts down Yeldon and Co. on the ground it will be a long day for Bortles.

No letdown or looking ahead - If this weren't just the third game of the year many would call it a trap game. New England is coming off an emotional divisional win last week against Ryan's Bills. Lying ahead is a bye week. And the return home is against a team that might be among the handful of worst in the NFL this season. It's up to Belichick and his team leaders to ensure that there is no letdown or any looking ahead. Given everything that's gone on in New England and what the team is looking to accomplish this season, led by its emotional quarterback, it's unlikely that the Patriots would fall into a trap in this spot. But it's always worth watching and the team's history of early season upset losses or surprising September struggles can't be overlooked.

Prediction - Two predictions right in two weeks! The more time spent analyzing this game and the Jaguars, the more New England appears to be the huge favorite and far better team. Belichick is right that Jacksonville has a lot of young, hungry, talented players with potential. But that doesn't mean they are ready for the challenging task at hand. Quite frankly, they are not. Bortles can't keep his offense on the field. His line can't protect him. The offense can't put points on the board. And the defense just doesn't seem to have the personnel to match up with New England's various formations and spread sets, especially in the back end. The Patriots offensive line remains key, but it has proven itself worthy through two weeks, including last week against a formidable foe. Put it all together and this has the feel of a fun Patriots blowout on a sunny Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Expect plenty of big plays from the Patriots on both sides of the ball. Don't expect the Jaguars to ever get their feet under themselves. Picture a young Bambi on the ice, that might be Jacksonville on the turf in Foxborough. Brady gets 400. Gostkowski gets to 425 PATs. Gronkowski gets another two scores. The Patriots roll 45-10. 3-0 at the bye!

What other things will you be watching for in this battle with the hungry, young Jags? Let us know with a comment below!

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