Common man Cassel

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:49 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS — As you read this, consider how many things you and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel have in common.

For example, it would seem to be a safe assumption that you have never made an NCAA Division I start at quarterback.

Neither did Matt Cassel, who spent his entire career at USC backing up Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

And unless you happen to be Jim Kelly and might enjoy reading one of the QMI Agency’s fine cache of publications, you probably haven’t thrown a pass in the pressure cooker that is a National Football League post-season contest.

Come to think of it, neither has Matt Cassel.

That, in itself, would appear to be one of the very relevant factors heading into Sunday’s AFC playoff showdown between Cassel’s Kansas City Chiefs and Joe Flacco’s Baltimore Ravens on the frosty grass of raucous Arrowhead Stadium.

On the surface, the Ravens would appear to have a huge edge in the quarterbacking category, at least as far as post-season experience is concerned.

In this, just his third NFL season, Flacco already will be making his sixth playoff start when the favoured Ravens step onto the field in front of 70,000 red-clad Kansas City zealots at Arrowhead, arguably the loudest open-air stadium in the league.

Yet, despite his relatively short time with the Ravens, if anyone can tune out the hostile catcalls of all these leather-lunged loonies, it would seem to be Flacco. While each of his previous five post-season appearances have come on the road, the fact that he has posted a 3-2 post-season mark — including a playoff win in Foxborough last January, where the Patriots Tom Brady has not lost a regular season game since 2006 — shows you just how composed this young man has been.

Obviously, at least on the surface, that would seem to give him a huge advantage over Cassel, whose only taste of professional post-season football came while he was holding a clipboard for the immortal Brady in New England.

Not so fast, however.

If Cassel does have a secret weapon, it would come in the form of Brady, who, should he win a fourth career Super Bowl, arguably would move past Joe Montana in the debate as to who is the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

Because of the friendship he forged with Brady during their time in New England, Cassel has the advantage of picking the brain of the Patriots pretty-boy pivot, something he did regularly last week.

Sorry, but that’s an option you, unlike Cassel, simply don’t have.

During their recent conversations, Cassel digested Brady’s helpful hints like a sponge, information he hopes to transform into a victory against the Ravens.

“(Brady) told me to treat it like just another game and to go and have fun,” Cassel said. “He said you can’t start doing things out there you don’t normally do.”

Let’s face it. In a perfect world, the Chiefs would prefer to grind out yards out on the ground with their dynamic rushing duo of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, wearing the Ravens down while bleeding time off the clock.

Nice plan. In theory.

In reality, however, trying to run against the Ravens is as difficult as keeping all-world linebacker Ray Lewis from yapping out on the field. It’s almost impossible.

First off, you somehow have to weave your way past 370-pound run stuffer Haloti Ngata, who has made a career of swallowing up running backs at the line of scrimmage.

Should you find a way to manoeuvre past him, you have the pleasure of being hunted down by Lewis, whose ambition is to knock you silly.

“When teams run on you, I take it personally,” Lewis said.

And when Ray Lewis takes something personal, pain usually ensues.

As a result, when all is said and done, the Chiefs may have no choice but to put their hopes on Cassel’s right arm.

He’d better hope Brady’s advice pays dividends. Otherwise he will still have zero career post-season victories.

Just like you.


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