Patriots: 5 players who must step up in Week 14

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3. Malcolm Butler

Switching gears to the defense, Butler must step up in Week 14 because he has a pretty tall order in front of him: covering star wideout DeAndre Hopkins, who is quickly becoming the Julio Jones of the AFC.

Through 12 games, Hopkins has been targeted on 29 percent of the Texans’ 500 total passing attempts. It doesn’t matter who’s throwing the ball for Houston; more likely than not, Hopkins is the target. Of the 288 throws Texans quarterbacks have completed, Hopkins has accounted for 30 percent.

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On the season, Hopkins has a stat line of 86 receptions, 1,169 yards and 10 touchdowns. Only Jones and Antonio Brown have accumulated more receiving yards. So yes, Butler will have his hands full on Sunday night.

For the most part, Butler has exceled in matchups against No. 1 wideouts this season. He blanketed Odell Beckham Jr. a few weeks back, and although he struggled a bit against Emmanuel Sanders, Butler recovered and held Jordan Matthews to just 36 yards on three receptions. Butler is tied for 11th in league having recorded 13 passes defended.

Butler must keep up the good work and prevent Hopkins from taking over the game. As long as Butler holds Hopkins to under 60 yards, the Patriots should prevail.

Next: 2. LeGarrette Blount