Flacco may determine who reps the AFC

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Flacco may determine who reps the AFC

Before the 2008 NFL Combine, if you asked me what a Flacco was, I'd have guessed either a sandwich, a drink or a euphemism for some deviant act.

By Friday of that week, I knew what a Flacco was. A quarterback from Delaware who looked a little like Ernie's buddy Bert from Sesame Street.

And by the end of Flacco's rookie year, the NFL had seen who Flacco was. He was a competent game manager for the Ravens (chosen 18th overall the previous April), decent enough to play quarterback on a team that lost a tight one in the AFC Championship to the Steelers.

Now 26 and in his fourth year as the Ravens starter, Flacco's got a nice on-paper resume 32-16 regular-season record as a starter; 80-46 TD-to-INT ratio but the eye test is more damning.

Flacco can make pretty, hard-to-complete throws with anyone in the league. And two plays later, he can throw it to the wrong team on a decision he should never make.

His inconsistency is what will make this Sunday's AFC Championship so hard to handicap.

It's a trait Rick Maese of The Washington Post keyed on during the preseason. And it's what keeps Flacco from being included in the conversation of upper-tier quarterbacks.

The fact that he has been omitted from that group has chafed at Flacco this year.

Heading into Sunday's Divisional Playoff game with the Texans, Flacco said, Im sure if we win Ill have nothing to do with why we won, according to you guys."

Well, they did win. And it didn't have as much to do with Flacco as it did the Ravens' defense and the four turnovers by Houston.

Flacco was 14-for-27 for 156 yards and took five sacks. He threw a pair of touchdowns - one of which was a magnificent 10-yard pass to Anquan Boldin.

But the Ravens' scoring drives on Sunday were 2, 30, 34 and 45 yards. And Flacco too often seemed freaked out and unimaginative in the teeth of the Texans' pass rush. The Ravens punted nine times. They had EIGHT three-and-outs.

New England doesn't muster the same heat the Texans can. And that may be a huge key on Sunday: the simple fact that the New England defense has a 92 MPH fastball and the Texans were 97 to 98.

But the fact the Patriots pretty much know what they'll get from their quarterback while the Ravens' guy is a total X-factor makes this game hard to handicap.