5 NFL Players Who Need to Step Up in Week 16

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 24, 2011

5 NFL Players Who Need to Step Up in Week 16

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    Week 16 of the 2011 NFL season arrives a day early this year, as teams across the league will attempt to give their fans an early Christmas gift by either clinching a playoff spot, keeping their postseason hopes alive, or the very least Grinch it up a bit by playing spoiler.

    If these teams are to place a bow on that proverbial gift this weekend, they'll need their key players to step it up, and here's a look at a handful of players who could make the difference between victory and defeat for their squads.

1. Eli Manning: QB, New York Giants

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    If the New York Giants are to force a winner-take-all Week 17 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys that will determine the NFC East champion, they must defeat the New York Jets this week in the Battle of the Big Apple.

    This means Giants quarterback Eli Manning will need to have a big game against cornerback Darrelle Revis and a stingy Jets pass defense.

2. Antoine Cason: CB, San Diego Chargers

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    For the San Diego Chargers to keep their slim playoff aspirations alive, they must defeat the Detroit Lions today in Motown.

    This means the San Diego pass defense, including cornerback Antoine Cason, will be handed the unenviable task of containing superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

3. Tim Tebow: QB, Denver Broncos

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    It's Tebow Time!

    The Denver Broncos will attempt to continue their improbable run towards a playoff berth when they face the Bills today in Buffalo.

    If the Broncos are to emerge victorious, then quarterback Tim Tebow will need to come out of the gate hot in the coldest game the second-year pro has ever played in.

4. Sammy Morris: RB, Dallas Cowboys

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    Should the New York Giants fall to the Jets today, the Dallas Cowboys can wrap up the NFC East with a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles this afternoon.

    But with running back Felix Jones likely shelved by a hamstring injury, it will be up to the recently signed 33-year-old Sammy Morris to carry the bulk of the load on the ground for the Cowboys.

5. Blaine Gabbert: QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars are about as far from the playoff picture as you can get, but if Gabbert wants the opportunity to erase the bad taste left by a shaky rookie season next year, he'd best lead the Jaguars to a win today and knock Jacksonville from the running for the top overall pick in next April's NFL draft.