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5 New England Patriots Who Must Step Up In Second Half Of Season

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5 New England Patriots Who Must Step Up In Second Half Of Season

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are used to being a favorite to play in the Super Bowl. For the last decade they have been at the top of the standings, always playing meaningful games late in the season. They once again find themselves playing meaningful games as we head into winter, but unlike seasons before there are serious questions about whether or not they have what it takes to come out on top.

This year, Tom Brady and the New England offense has struggled at times, something they’re not used to at all. Brady may not be the dominant force he was in the past, but he still has what it takes to lead the team all the way. It won’t be his performance that keeps them from reaching a championship. What the Patriots need is for his supporting cast to step up.

The offense has suffered from a lack of firepower in their skill positions. Due to injuries and offseason losses, Brady has struggled to find playmakers who can break a game open. It really is a testament to how great Brady is that he has been able to elevate his game at key moments and keep the Patriots in the title hunt.

New England heads into the second half of the year at a fork in the road of their season. They could either continue to get better week after week and be the favorite to challenge the Denver Broncos in the playoffs or they could finally cave under the weight of all the injuries and unproven players in the lineup.

If they want to stay at the top of the AFC standings they’ll need these five players to step up their games in the second half of the year.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

So far, the Danny Amendola experience has looked exactly like we all thought it would. He's been productive when he's been able to stay on the field, which, of course, has been frustratingly rare.

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4. Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If the Patriots want their defense to be a dominant force down the stretch it will need to start with Chandler Jones putting pressure on the quarterback. So far so good, as Jones has 8.5 sacks through the first nine games of his breakout second season.

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3. Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The New England offense has been a running back by committee this season, but Stevan Ridley is the most talented back they have and they will need him to carry the load down the stretch.

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2. Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Second-year defensive back Alfonzo Dennard has shown flashes of his talent this year. The Patriots face several top passers in the second half of the year, and they will need Dennard to give them lock-down coverage.

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1. Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowsi
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The key for the New England offense getting back to where it was the last few years is for All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski to be his old self down the stretch. One of the most dominant weapons in the league, Gronkowski opens the field for the rest of the team when defenses are forced to focus on stopping his lethal seam routes.