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Saints RBs, Bears OL, even Ochocino among Week 10 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 10:

Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, Saints, RBs:The Saints are regarded as one of the league's most explosive offenses due to Drew Brees and the aerial attack, but it is their underrated ground game that determines the outcome of games. Led by a deep and talented running back rotation that features Sproles and Thomas, the Saints are 6-0 when they gain 100-plus yards on the ground. On the other hand, New Orleans is winless (0-3) when they fail to surpass the century mark, which could make the running game the deciding factor in this pivotal NFC South contest against the Falcons. With Atlanta yielding only 87.2 rush yards a game, the fate of the Saints could rest on the shoulders of their talented running back tandem rather than the right arm of Brees.

Andrew Whitworth, Bengals, LT:Cincinnati's has surged to the top of the AFC North behind a rugged offensive line that has routinely owned the line of scrimmage. Led by Whitworth, the Bengals have consistently moved defenders off the ball to create lanes for Cedric Benson, while also providing a clean pocket for Andy Dalton. Against a banged up Steelers' frontline, the onus falls on Whitworth to win his battle against the resurgent James Harrison to keep the Bengals on track. With Harrison fresh off a three-sack performance against the Baltimore Ravens, Whitworth will need to be on his game in this AFC North battle.

Sean Lee, Cowboys, LB:Lee is having a breakout season as an emerging playmaker in the middle of the Cowboys' defense, but the unit has struggled in recent weeks stopping the run. Dallas has surrendered 401 rush yards over the past two weeks and must find a way to slow down Fred Jackson, the AFC's leading rusher. Lee, who is slated to play despite ailing from a dislocated wrist, must own his assigned gap to keep Jackson from leaking into the secondary on nifty cutback runs. If the Cowboys are able to keep Jackson well below the 100-yard mark, they can put the pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead a one-dimensional attack against Rob Ryan's aggressive pressure packages.

Unsung heroes

Just as important as X-factors are unsung heroes. Find out how the guy behind the guy behind the guy helped the Texans in Week 9. **More ...**

Lance Louis, Chris Spencer, Robert Garza, Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb, Bears, Offensive Line:The Bears were completely demolished in their initial matchup with the Lions due to an inept performance from their offensive line. The unit committed nine false start penalties and allowed three sacks, while watching the Ndamukong Suh-led Lions pummel Jay Cutler in the pocket. This week, however, the matchup could swing in the Bears' favor due to Mike Martz's renewed commitment the to run. The Bears are averaging 161.2 rushing yards on 30.2 rushes in their last five games, and allowing their beefy frontline to move defenders off the ball. If they continue their dominance at the point of attack against the most feared defensive line in the league, they could continue their unexpected surge to the top of the NFC.

Chad Ochocinco, Patriots, WR:There was once a time when Ochocinco would garner headline attention due to his status as a No. 1 receiver, but he has been a non-factor in the Patriots' offense to date. He only has nine receptions for 136 yards, and spent most of his time standing on the sideline despite serving as the unit's No.3 receiver. With Wes Welker likely blanketed by Darrelle Revis, the Patriots' passing game could hinge on Ochocinco's ability to win isolated matchups against Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. If he is able to deliver a breakthrough performance in a key AFC East matchup, Ochocinco could finally emerge as the impact playmaker Bill Belichick envisioned as a part of the Patriots' offense.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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