Tony Romo is coming back, even if it's too late to save the Dallas Cowboys' season.

The defending NFC East champions haven't managed one win without Romo, who broke his collarbone in Week 2 at Philadelphia. Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel each are 0-3 as starters, although they played well enough to win at least a couple games.

No player's return is more anticipated or needed than Romo. But will it matter?

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In a worst-case scenario, the Cowboys (2-6) would be four wins behind the Giants (5-4) when Romo is back on Nov. 22. That's if New York upsets unbeaten New England and Dallas loses at Tampa Bay. If the Cowboys beat the Buccaneers and Tom Brady and the Patriots knock off the Giants, Dallas is only two wins behind with seven to play when Romo comes back.

The Eagles (4-4) are also in the mix so Cowboys fans should root for the Dolphins along with the Patriots this week.

Here are other players to watch in the NFL's second half:

MATT HASSELBECK: The 40-year-old backup QB takes over the first-place Colts (4-5) now that Andrew Luck is expected to miss at least two to six weeks with a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle. Hasselbeck already started two games earlier this season and he's being counted on to keep Indianapolis atop the AFC South standings.

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JASON PIERRE-PAUL: The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end returned to the Giants last week after losing a finger in a July 4 fireworks accident. If he plays like his old self, Pierre-Paul would provide a big boost for New York's defense down the stretch.

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PEYTON MANNING: The Broncos are 7-1, but a tenacious defense deserves the credit far more than Manning. One of the greatest QBs ever could be playing the final games of his career over the next two months.

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CHARLES JOHNSON: The star pass rusher is eligible to return to the undefeated Panthers in Week 12 against Dallas after going down with a severe hamstring injury in September. He can only help a team that'll be playing for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

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VICTOR CRUZ: The salsa-dancing wide receiver hasn't played since tearing his patella last year. He's been slowed by a calf injury this season. Eli Manning has a new favorite target - Odell Beckham, Jr. - but a healthy Cruz could be a spark.

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DEMARCUS WARE: A back injury is expected to keep Ware out up to four weeks. The Broncos will certainly miss the eight-time Pro Bowl rusher.

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BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Big Ben is hurt again after missing four games earlier this season. The Steelers haven't ruled him out this week because, but his health will determine if they make the playoffs.

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COLIN KAEPERNICK: Less than three years after leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, Kaepernick seems to be done in San Francisco. Does he play again this season?

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TOM BRADY: Can any team slow him down? Will he lose a game? Does he break the record for yards passing?

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WES WELKER: He's back in the NFL with St. Louis. More important than helping the Rams' stagnant pass offense will be his ability to avoid another concussion.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi