Senior NFL Columnist

Week 12 matchups: Vincent Jackson vs. Asante Samuel will be key

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson vs. Falcons CB Asante Samuel: Jackson is a big reason why the Bucs have emerged as a playoff threat. His ability to stretch the field is key to the Tampa Bay offense. Samuel was acquired for this type of battle. Can he handle Jackson in man coverage? It won't be easy.

Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali vs. Broncos LT Ryan Clady: Clady is having a fantastic season. He excels in pass protection and protects Peyton Manning's blind side. Hali is a relentless pass rusher who will be an all-day affair. Put your eyes on this one.

Bears DE Julius Peppers vs. Vikings LT Matt Kalil: It's always fun to see a star pass rusher matched against a rookie left tackle. Kalil has done a nice job this season, but Peppers is a step above most. Peppers has power and speed, which makes it tough to handle him.

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Raiders QB Carson Palmer vs. Bengals (his old team): Palmer quit on the Bengals and then was traded. You know his old team would love to pay him back for quitting on them, and he will be amped to show them he isn't done. Problem is, his defense is horrible. So he might be trying to catch up all day.

Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Packers RT T.J. Lang: Lang has moved to the right tackle spot after Bryan Bulaga went down with a season-ending injury. Lang had some trouble against the Lions last week. Pierre-Paul hasn't had the type of year some expected, but coming out of the bye look for him to get it going.

Saints TE Jimmy Graham vs. 49ers safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner: You know the Saints will throw a lot to Graham, who is healthy now after being dinged early in the season. The 49ers' safeties are aggressive in run support, so look for some big-play chances for Graham.

49ers OLB Aldon Smith vs. Saints LT Jermon Bushrod: Smith is on a sack tear, getting 5 1/2 last week against the Bears. Bushrod is a step up in competition from J'Marcus Webb of the Bears. Drew Brees gets the ball out quick, so it will be a challenge for Smith to get to him.

Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs vs. Chargers LT Mike Harris: Harris has had a rough go of it starting for the injured Jared Gaither, and this is a tough challenge. Suggs hasn't been his usual explosive self, but this could be the game where he gets it going as a pass rusher.

Falcons WR Julio Jones and Roddy White vs. Bucs CBs Eric Wright and E.J. Biggers: The Tampa corners have really struggled, which should give Jones and White a lot of big-play chances. Matt Ryan struggled last week, but he should have plenty of chances down the field here.

Seahawks C Max Unger vs. Dolphins NT Paul Soliai: The Dolphins have slipped some in run defense the past few weeks, so expect the Seahawks to come in and try to pound Marshawn Lynch. That means Unger has to get push on Soliai, who can be a force at the point.

 
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