Shutdown Corner - NFL

The Sunday Evening Spongebath is a collection of random observations, notes, complaints, and joy-filled remembrances from a Sunday in the NFL.

There were two guys I wanted to eyeball today, because they're two guys I'm not sure of, they're two guys who have been praised heavily recently, and they're maybe the two guys who are most pivotal to how the playoffs will shake out in the AFC. They're Joe Flacco and Matt Cassel.

I hadn't seen enough of him recently (I'm still fighting to get past this mindset that the Ravens are difficult to watch because they want to win games 2-0 ... I know it's absurd, but it still lingers) and I wanted to see for myself what all the recent oooh'ing and awww'ing and fawning was about. 

And Cassel's coming off of two 400-yard games, and there's just no way I'm going to believe that the 400-yard version is the real Matt Cassel.

First up was Flacco against the Bengals, and I've gotta tell ya ... Mr. Flacco didn't disappoint. He threw some pretty attractive deep balls; a fair portion being on the money, a few being underthrown (but never leading to anything worse than a 50-50 jump ball situation [which is proving to be about 70/30 when Mark Clayton is involved]), and one requiring Mark Clayton to make a circus catch.

His intermediate throws were powerful, accurate, and timely. And maybe most impressively, the Bengals actually got a decent amount of pressure, and Flacco's got this ability to hang in the pocket for as long as possible before getting rid of the rock. Patience, poise, timing whatever you want to call it ... Flacco's got it.

What's it mean? Well, it means that the Ravens are a pretty damn good team, and you can officially throw away the "Man, I don't want to watch the Ravens because they play ugly football" mindset. This team is halfway well-rounded (that's a geometry term).

When he gets to the playoffs, all bets are off, but for now, in the regular season, if you're trying to pick a winner or someone to make the playoffs, don't discount the Ravens because of quarterback play. He's playing better than Peyton Manning or Matt Cassel at the moment.

Speaking of Cassel, he didn't disappoint, either. But that's because I expected him to perform pretty poorly.

He just doesn't throw the ball that accurately. Throws are behind people, they're short, they're over heads ... these are not good things for a quarterback. Randy Moss hurt him a bit today with a couple of brutal drops, but even if every pass had been caught, I think we were still looking at a rough day for Matt Cassel. And any and all receivers he tried to get killed.

So that's what I learned today, and these are things I'll keep in mind from now until Week 17. It's not like "FLACCO GOOD, CASSEL BAD" is carved in stone or anything, because quarterbacking, she is a fickle lady, and things tend to change quickly. But if there comes a time when I have to put money on either of these fellows, I know where I'm going.

Here's what I've gathered early in the Rams vs. Dolphins game: Rams with Steven Jackson = Reasonably respectable. Rams without Steven Jackson = MY EYES! MY EYES! In short, if Jim Haslett wants to be an NFL head coach past this year, he'll personally stretch, massage and kiss Jackson's injured thigh for the next few weeks, whether it needs it or not.

I'm surrounded by people from Baltimore and Buffalo, which is fun. I just smiled, and it caused a great sense of consternation and confusion in here. “What's that guy doing with his mouth?” “How'd he get the corners to point upwards like that? I've never seen anything like that before.” We might need a drunk, unemployed guy to stumble in and start crying about how he hates life just to restore some normalcy.

The Redskins need a win, and they play the Giants today. I'm not sure today's the best day for the Sean Taylor tribute and the big #21 logo at midfield. Hard to focus through that, isn't it? Why not also replace the facemasks with black veils and take the field to Boyz II Men's It's to Hard to Say Goodbye? Taylor's worthy of any tribute anyone wants to make. But I'm just saying ... if it's me, if you want me to excel at an activity for which I need to be fired up, it's probably best to not continually remind me of my dead best friend.

The people of Buffalo need to gather and demand that their royal blue throwbacks be made their permanent uniforms. This game against San Francisco will be ugly by any standard of football, but on TV, it is aesthetically pleasing. It's a classic, traditional, respectable look that is both pleasing to the eye and, unlike their current uniforms, based primarily on colors that actually exist in the Crayola box of 64. The contrast between how cool these are and how Sam Cassell-ugly their normal uniforms are is dramatic.

Speaking of Buffalo, you know what quarterback I wasn't eager to see today? Trent Edwards. He's not good.

You know that Sony commercial where the guy can't pick out a TV, and ends up in front of a panel of Peyton Manning, the San Diego Chicken, James Browns, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.? When he says he doesn't like sports, why does Earnhardt Jr. get mad? What does he have to do with sports? 

(I'm kidding, Jay Busbee!)

We're in the middle of an Interesting window for Baltimore here. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, as the anchors of the defense, are getting old at just the time when Joe Flacco could finally be providing them with a decent offense. They were there through Dilfer, Grbac, Banks, and Boller ... and they're now over 30 when Joe Flacco's in the building. Timing is a delicate thing.

CBS is heavily advertising the Alabama vs. Florida SEC Championship game next week, and I'm pretty psyched for it. It's weird, they'll have these two teams playing, and then the winner gets to advance and keep playing for the ultimate prize. College football should look into having more of those, because people like them.

Cadillac Williams gets into the endzone for the Bucs... that's outstanding to see. Continued good health to you, sir.

Leon Hall, by the way, young cornerback out of Michigan, is having a rough day. Every time I look at that game, he's being set ablaze. This is absolutely Rich Rodriguez's fault.

Rapidly rising on the list of annoying commercials and ready to take a place alongside “Saved by Zero,” “Five-dollar footlong,” and the Coke Zero lawyers: The Dodge Ram “Let's hire a group of blockheads to drive a truck while we swing other trucks at them and attempt to set them on fire, and then film them making keen observations like, “Yeah!” and, “That's pretty frickin' cool!” You are all a disgrace, and I hope that you awaken to find that someone has tattooed "The Fit is Go!" across your forehead.

The second half of the Bengals/Ravens game is dominated by talk of TJ Houshmandzadeh's impending free agency. Housh's general feeling is that he won't be back, and there aren't currently any negotiations going on between he and the Bengals. If the Bengals allow Houshmandzadeh to walk and get nothing in return, and they hang on to Chad Johnson ... the league should step in and take the franchise away from the Brown family. I'm not kidding. If you run a keeper fantasy football league, and someone holds on to Shaun Alexander and lets go of Steve Slaton, you have to cut that guy loose. Same principle here.

Late in the Giants/Redskins game, FOX goes through a visual tour of the backpages of New York newspapers the day after Plaxico Burress plugged himself. Two of them used the phrase “Giant Idiot,” and that's a harsh thing to put in print about someone, but in this case ... it's wholly appropriate. 

There are honest mistakes people can make with guns. Just as a chef can make a mistake with a blender, or a J.P. Losman can make a mistake with a football, a hunter or a cop can make a mistake with a gun. Unfortunate, but it happens. But if you're not a hunter or a cop, and you're just some injured football player, and the gun is your own, and you take it into a club, and you end up putting a bullet in your own thigh ... sorry, but I think you've earned that "idiot" tag. 

Plax's lawyer says to wait until you have all the facts before passing judgment, but what knowledge could possibly exist that overrides the following facts: 1) You don't carry guns into clubs; 2) If you do, you leave the safety on; 3) You keep your finger off the trigger; and 4) You especially keep your finger off the trigger when the gun is pointed at yourself.

A Giants fan in the FedEx Field stands is still holding onto an 18-1 sign. I'm not sure what it has to do with this game against the Redskins, but it seems like we're holding onto that “18-1” bit a little longer than we should be.

At the end of the 1 o'clock games, I find myself surrounded by four huge flat screens all featuring the Rams trying to drive for a game-winning touchdown against the Dolphins. This is not the pinnacle of entertainment.

Miami ends up holding on, and a win's a win, but ... at this point in the season, if you want people to take you seriously as a playoff contender, don't you have to beat the Rams by more than four? I don't know. Maybe I'm being too hard on the Fish. It was on the road, Steven Jackson was back, and they did protect the integrity of Tony Sparano and his man-smock.

Dan Dierdorf on Mike Tomlin: “Whatever 'it' is, it oozes out of Mike Tomlin.” Now that's some thorough pregame research. Dierdorf, I dare you to find out what's oozing out of Travis Henry.

Yesterday, Nebraska tried a fake field goal attempt that resulted in a touchdown for Colorado. Afterwards, Nebraska head coach Bo Pellini termed in the “boneheaded call of all time.” Anyone wanna take a guess as to what NFL team tried the exact same play in the exact same manner today in the NFL? Okay, put your hands down. Yes, it was the Raiders. And yes, it resulted in a touchdown for Kansas City.

This just in ... Derek Anderson has a sprained MCL and will miss three weeks. With Brady Quinn out for the year, you know what this means? It's Ken Dorsey Time. He's like Brady Quinn, except without all the muscle or accuracy. I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, and I finally figured out what's wrong with the San Diego Chargers: they stuck the sweat off a swine's nipples. Every single member of that team should be beaten. They don't have to be contributing to the rash of mediocre play in the NFL, but they're doing it anyway. 

Drops, penalties, missed blocks. They have opportunities and they don't execute. It's little things, and no one on this team does them. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you're not disciplined, paying attention to the little things, and willing to pay the price, then you're not very good. That's the way it goes. You're not very good, Chargers.

By the way, everyone who was saying this week that it was dumb of the Chargers to let Michael Turner go is politely invited to shove a shampoo bottle in their ear. I didn't hear anyone – not a single person – saying at the time that it was some colossal mistake. If you did, you can feel free to call Chargers general manager A.J. Smith anything you want. If you didn't, you don't get to chastise him now with hindsight in your pocket.

Some guy named Slater (A.C., I believe), who returns kicks for the Patriots committed the one single boner that the Steelers needed to turn that game. He fumbled a kickoff, the Steelers pounced on it, and from there, the Patriots went for a ride down the Duquesne Incline.

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