The New England Patriots have the NFL's best secondary -- a group loaded with elite talent and excellent depth.
Much of the attention deservedly goes to cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The 29-year-old veteran is the leading candidate for the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and he's likely to earn an All-Pro selection for the second straight season. Gilmore leads the league with 19 passes defensed and is tied for the lead in interceptions with six.
He's not the only talented cornerback in the Patriots secondary, though. J.C. Jackson has become a dependable part of that unit, particularly as a slot cornerback. In fact, Jackson leads the league in passer rating on throws into his coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.
Gilmore and Jackson have played pivotal roles in the Patriots' pass defense ranking among the league's best. New England's defense enters Sunday's Week 17 regular season finale ranked No. 2 in pass yards allowed per game, No. 1 in pass yards per attempt, No. 1 in completion percentage, No. 1 in interceptions, No. 1 in pass touchdowns allowed and No. 1 in opposing QB rating.
The Patriots will need a similarly impressive defensive effort in January if they are going to become the second team in league history to make four straight Super Bowl appearances.