Cowboys' Murray, Vikings' Rudolph among Week 7 X-factors


Most of the attention going into games is on the stars, but lesser-known players often end up being the difference-makers. Here are a few players who could have a great impact in Week 7:

Corey Williams, Lions, DT: The challenge of stopping the Falcons' powerful running game will certainly depend on the play of the Lions' interior triangle of Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Stephen Tulloch. The trio must control the middle of the defense to prevent Michael Turner from running roughshod. Williams, in particular, must control his assigned gap to prevent blockers from climbing to the second level to maul the Lions' undersized linebackers. How well he fares in his assignment could determine if Detroit is able to keep Turner under wraps.

Eric Smith, Jets, S: Philip Rivers is one of the league's best deep ball throwers. Norv Turner provides him with ample opportunity to push the ball downfield by creatively utilizing play-action passes off strong run fakes. Smith must play with discipline and focus to avoid falling for the deceptive tactics to limit the deep throws to Vincent Jackson on post-routes. If the Jets can take the deep ball away from the Chargers' arsenal, they could make life difficult on Rivers in the pocket.

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings, TE: Leslie Frazier's decision to insert Christian Ponder into the lineup will likely produce a conservative offensive game plan for the Vikings. This will mean more throws to the tight ends out of their Ace-formation on an assortment of high percentage passes to get rookie comfortable in the pocket. With the Packers certain to direct most of their attention to Visanthe Shiancoe, Rudolph could become Ponder's primary target this week.

Unsung Heroes
Each week, lesser-known players often end up being difference-makers. Who fit the role of unsung hero in Week 6? Hint: He's a punter. More ...

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys, RB: The loss of Felix Jones forces Jason Garrett to reshuffle his running back rotation against the Rams. While Tashard Choice will handle the bulk of the work on the ground, Murray has the speed and explosiveness to replace Jones' big play element. Expect Garrett to use him on a variety of screens and gadget plays designed to help him get loose in space.

Calais Campbell, Cardinals, DE: The Cardinals' defensive game plan is built around the premise of making Ben Roethlisberger uncomfortable in the pocket. Blitzing is certainly an option, but generating a consistent rush with their defensive line would limit the exposure of the secondary. Campbell, who has 2.5 sacks, is an athletic, big body with the tools to win isolated matchups off the edge. If he can put a few hits on Roethlisberger early, it will disrupt the rhythm of the Steelers' passing game and reduce the potential for big plays.

K.J. Wright, Seahawks, OLB:  Since replacing Aaron Curry in the starting lineup, Wright has shown signs of being a playmaker. Against a Browns offense that will attempt to pound the ball with Peyton Hillis or Montario Hardesty, he will need to be a significant factor as a run defender this week.

Delone Carter, Colts, RB: The rookie replaced Joseph Addai last week with moderate success, but needs a big game against the Saints to provide much-needed balance to the Colts' offense. With Indianapolis likely to employ a conservative game plan to keep the ball away from Drew Brees and Co., Carter must have 80-plus yards on the ground to keep the Colts from engaging in a shootout.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks



The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop