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Scouting Notebook: Fantastic flops

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Shockingly bad performances by two great quarterbacks highlight this week's Scouting Notebook.

Peyton Manning's(notes) stat-line on Sunday fit perfectly with the recent, disturbing pattern. His four picks give him 11 in the last three games – all Colts losses.

It was a little embarrassing to hear Manning getting the Brett Favre(notes) treatment on the telecast – nothing is his fault. The poor decisions/poor throws all absolved by his "poor" supporting cast. But he gets all the glory when those same teammates come up big or when he has a totally unforced error. Praising Manning now when he's costing his team games actually dishonors his prior greatness. The interesting question now is whether this is the beginning of the end of Manning, who is 35 in March. I look at the completion percentage (71 percent during this stretch) and say, "No way." But his lack of judgement of late is mystifying. He's had to carry his team before and hasn't cracked like this.

So much for the MVP candidacy of Philip Rivers(notes). He was much worse than his 23-39-280-1-1 stat line. Many throws were badly off target. He was harassed but looked skittish in the pocket, very uncharacteristic of him. I think Rivers has to take some heat for being such a big part of a Chargers team that can only rally when things are desperate and ultimately chokes away any advantage they have. Choking is an overused word in sports. But it's applicable here for the team and for the quarterback, who are inexorably linked. Rivers didn't even rally the Chargers one time at home against the Raiders. That's sad.

Carson Palmer(notes) trying to clock the ball while precious final seconds ticked off the clock against the Saints did not end up affecting the outcome. But it proved that Palmer is incapable of turning the corner again in his career. That was rank amateurism. I refuse to blame the coaches, who shouldn't have to connect the dots for an eight-year vet.

The Saints offense is rounding into 2009 form at just the right time. But their defense is a big problem when they are not generating those mostly random turnovers.

Earl Bennett(notes) is worth picking up in all formats as he seems to have finally picked up the intricacies of Mike Martz's offense, as have all the Bears. Yes, this game was life and death and shouldn't have been. But as I've said about the Jets this year, winning unimpressively in the NFL can sometimes be the most impressive way to win.

Go get James Starks if he's available. Brandon Jackson(notes) is back to being the third-down back. But the Packers have given up on their running game, a mistake because good teams need to run it well to beat the clock after the passing game beats the opponent. I dig those 1929 Packers digs. They are the Abe Lincoln of uniforms – so ugly that they actually end up looking pretty cool.

The Chiefs' corners rank very well in completion percentage and QB rating against opposing wideouts. But how can Denver go from abusing their secondary a few weeks ago to laying an egg that big? That's just being badly out-coached. Brandon Lloyd(notes) was open once deep and Kyle Orton(notes) missed him, but that was the exception and it's the playcaller's job to get the QB's first read open on most plays.

Chad Henne(notes) has a "Skynet" label on his back, I'm convinced, because he shows no emotion even after throwing a third pick that just handed the game to the Browns in the final minute. The Dolphins need to blow the team up, but first they need to blow up their front office and coaching staff.

The less said about Bills-Vikings, the better. Same goes for Brett Favre. But Sidney Rice(notes) is still really good.

The Redskins are a million miles away from being a good team. There's not one strength there. Mike Shanahan should have known better. But Daniel Snyder soils the legacy of Hall of Fame coaches like no other owner ever.

Looks like Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) is back to being the featured back. It's not just the 25 carries, but how they were distributed throughout the game. Don't count on Brandon Jacobs(notes) again.

The Cardinals don't seem to have a QB in the stable, but there are guys out there. Remember, the Cardinals got Kurt Warner(notes) off the scrap heap. What's wrong with Drew Stanton(notes) and Shaun Hill(notes) (Lions backups assuming Matt Stafford ever gets back)? Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) might be available if the Bills are stupid and buy into their ability to divine a franchise QB from the amateur ranks and kick Fitzpatrick to the curb.

Marshawn Lynch(notes)? Seriously? I hate it when three cheap touchdowns come from stiffs like him (entered the game with 3.1 yards per rush and had all of 4.1 on his way to 28 fantasy points in Yahoo! formats).

Here's why I think the Falcons are overrated – 29th in yards per play allowed and 21st in offensive yards per play and then they lose the YPP battle to Tampa Bay (who are even worse). Good/great teams almost always win from scrimmage as measured by YPP. When you think about it, there's no denying that it's fundamental to winning. If you beat those YPP odds, you by definition are lucky.

The big problem I see with Ben Roethlisberger's(notes) right foot injury is that he can't roll to his right and plant and throw remotely like he did when healthy. And Roethlisberger's improvisational ability has long been the bread-and-butter of the Steelers offense. I know he throws better from the pocket this year, but that's with teams doing their best to keep him there. Now defenses just have another reason to pin their ears back and go after that bottom-ranked and now crippled Steelers pass protection (measured by sack percentage allowed).

Michael Salfino writes for the Wall Street Journal and is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports.

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