Patriots: 5 players who must step up in Week 14

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are in unfamiliar territory. They enter Week 14 in the midst of a two-game losing streak as a result of injuries, mistakes and poor play calling on offense. The Houston Texans present no small task for the undermanned Patriots on Sunday Night Football. To win the game, the following five players must step up and take on large roles.

Must-read: AFC Power Rankings Week 14: Pats fall to No. 3

5. Brandon LaFell

Drops have plagued LaFell throughout his career, and the problem struck again in Week 13. During the Patriots’ desperate final drive, LaFell dropped an easy slant pass which would have translated into a first down and plenty more. Had LaFell secured the throw, he would have probably gained another 10 yards or so, setting the Pats up in Eagles’ territory. This isn’t to say the Patriots would have scored a touchdown to tie the game, but it at least would have kept hopes alive.

Against the Texans, LaFell must play like it’s 2014 again when he snagged 74 passes for 953 yards and seven touchdowns. Since returning from the PUP list, LaFell has racked up 369 yards on 25 carries but he has yet to reach the end zone. As long as Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski are out, LaFell will continue to get plenty of targets; he must make the most of these opportunities, or else he could find himself expendable in the offseason.

Next: 4. Keshawn Martin