Shutdown Corner - NFL

Matt Cassel(notes), QB, Kansas City Chiefs.

The difference between late-season Matt Cassel and early season Matt Cassel is immense. Todd Haley and Charlie Weis deserve a lot of credit for shaping Cassel over the course of this season and last. Check the progress: Against 27 touchdowns, he's thrown just five interceptions this season, and just one in the last eight games. Just four times this year, Cassel's had a game in which his passer rating has been under 80. Three of those came in his first four games.

The Chiefs step into the playoffs with the league's best running game, a top-10 defense, and a quarterback they know won't hurt them. That's a pretty good formula.

Matt Forte(notes), RB, Chicago Bears.

Forte danced all over the Jets on Sunday, with Mike Martz finding different ways to get him the ball in space and in matchups he was likely to win. The totals were 113 yards on the ground (on just 19 carries), and 56 through the air, against a once-feared Jets defense. The Bears continue to get better and make that desirable list of teams that are "peaking at the right time."

Tim Tebow(notes), QB, Denver Broncos.

It wasn't one of the all-time great quarterback performances or anything, and it did come against the Houston Texans "defense," but you know what? Tim Tebow made plays.

Considering the team he's on, that there's nothing to play for, and the number of people waiting for him to fail, Tebow came up pretty big Sunday. He completed 16-of-29 passes for 308 yards, a TD and an interception. He also ran for 27 yards and a touchdown.

Again, he's got a long way to go, and this doesn't mean that the Broncos have their quarterback of the future or anything. Look at it as proof of concept. The same plays he made in college; getting outside of the pocket and making an improvised throw or finding some yards on the ground, he was able to do Sunday, too. There is reason to be encouraged.

Greg Jennings(notes), WR, Green Bay Packers.

Being 5-foot-11, playing in a small market and coming out of Western Michigan, he doesn't get the same kind of attention as Andre Johnson(notes), Calvin Johnson(notes) or Larry Fitzgerald(notes). But does the name Greg Jennings not deserve to be at least included in the conversation regarding the game's best wideout?

He's top five in yards, second in touchdowns, fifth in receptions of 20 yards or more, and among players with 50 or more catches, he's fifth with an average of 16.2 yards per reception. He helped the Packers destroy the Giants on Sunday with seven receptions for 142 yards. Jordy Nelson(notes), James Jones(notes), John Kuhn(notes) and Donald Lee(notes) got the touchdowns, but they got them in part because Jennings was putting in the work on the outside.

Josh Freeman(notes), QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Five touchdowns and no interceptions will get you on the list, just about every time. Freeman threw the ball 26 times with just five incompletions. LeGarrette Blount(notes) helped open things up for Freeman, pounding out 164 rushing yards on 9.1 per carry.

Seattle's defensive strategy must have been ... um ... well, Earnest Graham(notes) only had one catch for 4 yards, though, so they did shut down Tampa Bay's vaunted fullback game. Well done, gentlemen. This team can still make the playoffs, by the way.

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