NFL

5 Players To Watch In Week 12

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by Chris Boyle

Thanksgiving’s tripleheader, highlighted by crucial wins for the Lions and Steelers, served as a satisfying appetizer to the football weekend. Now, it’s time for Sunday’s main course – and the six-week sprint to the postseason.

Realistically, only five NFL teams – the Browns, 49ers, Bears, Jaguars and Jets – can be counted out. Even the suddenly hapless Bengals can stay alive with a divisional win over Baltimore.

As for the teams who can make the most of this week, how about the red-hot Giants? New York has won five in a row and visits 0-11 Cleveland with a chance to open up a 1.5-game lead for the top NFC Wild Card spot. Miami’s also won its last five games and hosts a San Francisco squad which has not picked up a victory since Week 1.

Here are five players to watch in Week 12.

Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles

Assuming Eagles coach Doug Pederson activates Agholor for Monday night’s game against Green Bay, the second-year receiver will have all eyes on him.

Last year’s first-round pick, Agholor has struggled mightily with drops and mental mistakes – so much so that Pederson remained noncommittal about his playing status when asked by reporters on Saturday.

Agholor replied that he’s “in a good place right now.” However, he’s made little impact for Philadelphia, catching 27 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown.

Expect the Eagles to open things up against the Packers’ decimated defensive corps, especially without starting running back Ryan Mathews. Green Bay allows a league-worst 8.6 yards per reception.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals

Cincinnati endured one of the worst weeks for any NFL team in recent memory, losing wide receiver A.J. Green to a partially torn hamstring and running back Giovani Bernard to a torn ACL. Oh, and there’s also the issue of falling at home to Buffalo in a virtual must-win scenario.

Andy Dalton must find another playmaker in the passing game, and Boyd – the team’s second-round pick out of Pittsburgh – appears to fit the billing. The 6-foot-2, 197-pounder matched a career-high with six receptions and hauled in his first touchdown after Green went down in the first quarter.

With Jimmy Smith, Baltimore’s top cornerback, listed as doubtful because of a back injury, Dalton should have opportunities to pick on a Ravens secondary which has surrendered 19 touchdown passes. The Bengals look to extend their winning streak to six games against the Ravens.

Benardrick McKinney, LB, Texans

The Raiders exposed Houston’s linebacking corps in coverage, McKinney in particular, in Monday night’s win in Mexico City.

Oakland’s backfield trio of Jamize Olawale, Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard caught 11 passes on 11 targets for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Houston must regroup at home on a short week as San Diego’s passing attack comes to town.

Melvin Gordon, one of the league’s most improved players, has 33 receptions for 346 yards, including four receptions of at least 20 yards. Houston will have to respect Gordon out of the backfield, looking to take a two-game lead over Indianapolis in the AFC South.

Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals

Peterson earned a mention last week in matching up head-to-head against Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs.

Next up: Julio Jones, inside the Georgia Dome.

Rated the NFL’s No. 8 cornerback by Pro Football Focus, Peterson hasn’t allowed more than 73 receiving yards in any game this season. Quarterbacks throwing into Peterson’s coverage have posted a passer rating of 72.8.

Arizona absolutely needs to win, and much of its hopes will rest upon Carson Palmer’s fading right arm. But if Peterson can keep Jones at bay and prevent this game from turning into a track meet, that certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Trevor Siemian, QB, Broncos

As ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia points out, Siemian is completing only 56.3 percent of his passes and averaging 6.34 yards per attempt since suffering a shoulder injury in Week 4. Since that 27-7 win over Tampa Bay, Siemian has not posted a passer rating of 90.0 or better.

Essentially, the former seventh-rounder has played replacement-level quarterback. That’s good enough to win seven games when paired with Denver’s fantastic defense. It’s probably not good enough, however, to hold off first-round pick Paxton Lynch for much longer.

The Chiefs secondary is middle-of-the-road in terms of coverage, but it has snagged a league-high 13 interceptions. Second-year star Marcus Peters may be a game-time decision due to his hip injury


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