Broncos' Moreno, Steelers' Brown among Week 8 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 8:

Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball, Broncos, RBs: The loss of Willis McGahee will force John Fox to turn to a two-back tandem to anchor the running game against the Lions. Moreno will certainly get plenty of touches on deceptive runs and screens to take advantage of his speed and quickness in the open field. Ball, on the other hand, will do most of his damage between the tackles on a variety of inside zone runs. If the duo can combine for 100-plus rushing yards, the Broncos will be able to stick to their conservative game plan and protect Tim Tebow in the pocket.

Todd Herremans, Eagles, OT: The prospect of facing an aggressive pass rush against the Cowboys puts the onus on the Eagles' offensive line to handle DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer off the edges. Herremans, who could start at right or left tackle depending on Jason Peters' status, must find a way to keep Ware and Spencer from battering Michael Vick in the pocket. If he can solidify his edge with little assistance from a tight end or running back, the Eagles will be able to attack a vulnerable Cowboys secondary with their full complement of eligible receivers.

Antonio Brown, Steelers, WR: Brown has emerged as one of the Steelers' difference makers despite playing as their No. 3 receiver. However, he must take his game to another level against the Patriots due to the potential absence of Hines Ward. If the veteran is unavailable or limited, Brown must do some of the dirty work over the middle of the field to give Ben Roethlisberger another weapon to target in the passing game. Also, don't underestimate Brown's role in the return game. As the Steelers' kick return specialist, he could make a huge difference in the field position battle, which could be the deciding factor in a close game.

Unsung Heroes

Just as important as X-factors are unsung heroes. Cam Newton received a little bit of help on his way to breaking a rookie record in Week 7. **More ...**

Daryl Smith, Jaguars, OLB:Against the Texans, stopping Houston's potent rushing attack has to be the priority for the Jaguars' defense. That puts the burden on Smith to control his assigned gap on the backside to keep Arian Foster and Ben Tate from finding seams on designed cutback runs. If Smith and Co. can get multiple hats on the Texans' runners early in the game, the Jaguars can force the Texans into a one-dimensional attack, which could lead to critical turnovers from Matt Schaub.

Brandon Carr, Chiefs, CB:Facing the Chargers and their potentially explosive aerial attack means several isolated matchups against a pair of big, physical receivers in Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. In their last outing, the Chiefs challenged the duo by instructing Carr (and Brandon Flowers) to play extensive press coverage on the outside. The constant harassment disrupted the timing of the Chargers' passing game and resulted in Philip Rivers tossing two interceptions. With Romeo Crennel likely to utilize the tactic again, Carr's ability to hold up on the outside will be critical to the Chiefs' success.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.