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15 NFL Players To Watch In Week 12

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15 Players To Keep An Eye On in NFL Week 12

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

NFL week 12 is almost here. The week will kick off with an NFC South showdown from the ATL, as the New Orleans Saints will travel to take on the Atlanta Falcons.

At the beginning of the season, on paper, this game figured to be huge. The Falcons were thought of as Super Bowl contenders before the season began, while most thought the Saints would rebound after the return of Sean Payton. Well, the Saints have rebounded in a big way, but the Falcons have fallen off a cliff. This TNF matchup in week 12 is now really all about the Saints and their quest for a top seed in this year's playoffs. The Falcons have been reduced to the role of spoiler.

The action on Sunday will kickoff with a key AFC game from Baltimore. The Jets will travel to take on the Ravens in a game with major playoff implications. A week ago, the Jets were in control of their own destiny for a Wild Card spot and the Ravens were one win away from evening their record at 5-5. Now, both teams are reeling and the loser of this game will likely miss out on the postseason this January.

The game of the week is once again set to take place on Sunday Night Football. Chiefs and Broncos somewhat lived up to the hype in week 11, but most fans think the week 12 battle between the Broncos and Patriots will be much better. It will mark the 14th time Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have faced each other during their legendary careers. The winner of the matchup will remain in solid shape for a top seed in the AFC playoffs.

So as is the case with every week in the NFL, each team has key players it needs to step up. Here are 15 players to keep an eye on:

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Geno Smith

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

The Jets' up-and-down struggles in 2013 continued in week 11. Now at 5-5, it's most definitely put up or shut up time in New York. Smith has to step up and start playing better right away. The rookie QB hasn't tossed a TD pass since October 20th.

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Wes Welker

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USA Today Sports

It's unknown if Welker will take the field Sunday night in his return to New England, but if he does, you can count on him being driven to show up his old team.

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Joe Flacco

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USA Today Sports

The Ravens' season is slipping away quickly. The defending champs need a big game from their QB on Sunday, because their running game has been average at best in 2013.

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Le'Veon Bell

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USA Today Sports

The rookie running back has had an okay season thus far, but if the Steelers are going to make a run at the postseason, they'll need him to step up his game. Keep on eye on Bell this Sunday as he tries to rebound from a 36-yard performance in week 11.

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Reggie Bush

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USA Today Sports

After being benched in week 11 by Jim Schwartz, it will be interesting to see how Bush responds against the Bucs. If he has a big day, the Lions will likely cruise to a victory.

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Peyton Manning

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USA Today Sports

One week ago we were all talking about Manning's ankle. Now, the conversation has shifted to his long-time rivalry with Tom Brady. Can Peyton go on the road and beat his rival in their 14th meeting?

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Scott Tolzien

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USA Today Sports

The still Rodgers-less Packers are hoping that Tolzien can hit his stride in week 12. The lowly Vikings are coming to town and if he can't lead the Pack to a big win, it will certainly be time to panic in Green Bay.

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Donnie Avery

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USA Today Sports

Avery has had a couple of decent games in 2013, but for the most part, he's been just another guy. It's time for the Chiefs to start putting more points on the board, so watch on Sunday to see if they try to get Avery more involved.

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Lamar Miller

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USA Today Sports

The Dolphins are back in the AFC Wild Card picture, but they desperately need a reliable running game. It's clearly not an easy thing to pull off when two of your top offensive linemen are out, but Miller needs to step up his game in a big way. Over the past two weeks, the RB has only amassed 19 yards on the ground.

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Kyle Long

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USA Today Sports

The rookie guard will be in a peculiar situation on Sunday, as he'll have to block his brother Chris at times. The Long brothers will square off in St. Louis as their father Howie watches from the stands.

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Santana Moss

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USA Today Sports

After calling out RG3 following the Redskins' loss in week 11, it will interesting to see how many balls are thrown Moss' way. Is this the beginning of the end of his long tenure in Washington?

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Tony Romo

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USA Today Sports

The Cowboys' defense is awful and they refuse to run the ball on a regular basis. All of that means one thing - the Cowboys will go as far as Tony Romo carries them this season. With a crucial road game looming against the Giants in week 12, all eyes will be on the Dallas QB.

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Robert Mathis

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USA Today Sports

If Mathis can wreak havoc on the Cardinals' offensive line on Sunday, look for the Colts to easily leave the dessert with a victory.

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Matt McGloin

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USA Today Sports

McGloin will be making his second career start on Sunday and there's no doubt he's trying to take the starting job away from Terrelle Pryor permanently.

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Andre Brown

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USA Today Sports

After returning from injury two weeks back, Brown has been solid for the Giants out of the backfield. If he can continue to get healthy while averaging nearly four yards per carry, the G-Men could be in business down the stretch.