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Titans' Griffin, Texans' Jones among Week 14 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 big impact in Week 14:

Michael Griffin, S, Titans: Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has challenged his defenders to put fear in the minds of receivers venturing over the middle by delivering big hits when given the chance. Griffin, who mans the middle from his safety position, will need to act as the enforcer against the Saints to prevent Drew Brees from picking apart the unit between the hashes. If he can nail Jimmy Graham or Marques Colston early in the game, he can set the tone and dissuade Brees from targeting the sweet spot on the field.

Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans: The loss of Andre Johnson alters the pecking order of the Texans' receiving corps and makes it imperative for Jones to be a factor in the passing game. He possesses the speed and explosiveness to make plays down the field, which could make him T.J. Yates' top option against the Bengals. If he can come up with a few explosive plays to stretch the field, Yates will be able to comfortably target Owen Daniels and others in the intermediate areas to sustain drives in critical situations.

Dunta Robinson, CB, Falcons: The Cam Newton-Steve Smith connection is deadly, and the Panthers love to feature the deep ball early in games. Robinson must keep Smith from getting loose in the secondary to prevent the rookie quarterback from finding his rhythm early. If Robinson is unable to contain the Panthers' top playmaker, the Falcons will have to commit more defenders to the pass, which will open up the running lanes for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

Kamerion Wimbley, OLB, Raiders: The only way the Raiders can contain the Packers' explosive aerial attack is through generating pressure with their defensive front. Wimbley comes off the edge with reckless abandon and Hue Jackson must unleash him to disrupt the timing of Aaron Rodgers in the pocket. With a few big hits from the backside, Wimbley can create the kind of disruption needed to help the Raiders pull off a huge upset in Green Bay.

Unsung Heroes

Just as important as X-factors are unsung heroes. Check out the man who is quietly getting it done for the surging Steelers. **More ...**

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants: The Giants will only go as far as their defense will take them, and their front four must lead the charge. Pierre-Paul is emerging as one of the league's best pass rushers and he is in line to have a big game against Cowboys rookie offensive tackle Tyron Smith. If Pierre-Paul can harass Tony Romo repeatedly off the edge, the Giants might be able to generate a few turnovers from hurried throws in the pocket.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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