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NFL notes: Another Washington shutdown with RG3

Just when you thought the nation's capital had enough controversies and power struggles swirling around, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, right, delivered a vexing veto last week. Shanahan's surprising decision to bench franchise QB Robert Griffin III — and making him inactive for the final three games — has been analyzed and dissected by many. Shanahan says Griffin is healthy but wants to keep him that way heading into next season considering he had reconstructive knee surgery before getting beat up in this 3-10 disaster. "If something did happen to him, I think it would set our franchise back," Shanahan said. Others aren't so sure.

Washington Post columnist Mike Wise writes Shanahan, who reportedly nearly quit after last season, is using Griffin as a pawn to provoke a confrontation with owner Daniel Snyder, making sure he'll receive the $7 million he's owed in 2014 (the final year of his contract). Ex-Redskins QB Donovan McNabb, who also was benched by Shanahan, says the coach is trying to show why he believes QB Kirk Cousins, today's starter, gives the Redskins the better chance to win.

But maybe, just maybe, this might be the best thing for Griffin going forward.

Not playing Griffin would have been unimaginable last year, when the Heisman Trophy winner took the league by storm, getting labeled the franchise's savior after leading it to the NFC East title as a rookie. But this year has been a complete mess with Griffin getting sacked 24 times over the past five games (all losses) and taking shots from teammates for not shouldering enough of the blame for the team's struggles.

Griffin took the high road last week, saying he wants to play but will live by Shanahan's decision. Wise believes it was the right one.

"Robert Griffin III needed to be removed from this sorry drama," Wise writes. "His body, mind and ego needed to be extricated from a lost year of his career. He has been coddled and enabled. Used off the field, abused on it. Vicariously lived and died through throughout this commode fire of a season.

Now it's time to pluck the kid from a house engulfed by flames."

Power rankings

1. Seahawks (11-2)

2. Broncos (11-3)

3. Saints (10-3)

4. 49ers (9-4)

5. Panthers (9-4)

6. Chiefs (10-3)

Mad Megatron

The last thing I'd want to do just before facing the Lions' Calvin Johnson, arguably the greatest receiver on the planet, is rile him up. But Ravens rookie S Matt Elam, apparently, did just that.

The former Florida Gator referred to the two-time All-Pro as "pretty old" on Wednesday: "He's pretty old, so I don't know how physical he'll be."

Johnson, 28, laughed off the comments, saying, "I'll show him what that old man's strength is about."

Johnson also took a subtle shot at Elam: "It doesn't surprise me because he doesn't have to see me on the field. So he can talk all he wants. He plays back, and I don't see him every play unless I run past him. I'm not worried about it."

Even Ravens QB Joe Flacco was stunned to hear Elam's shot at Johnson. "You just kind of look at him and say, 'Dude, what are you thinking? It's Calvin Johnson.' "

Who's hot?

Ravens: The defending Super Bowl champions have awakened from their early season slumber, winning four of their past five, including a dramatic 29-26 victory over the Vikings last week. The Ravens now are second in the AFC North and back in the wild-card chase. But they finish with games against the Lions, Patriots and Bengals.

Who's not?

Redskins: Besides coach Mike Shanahan's controversial decision to bench franchise QB Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season. … The Redskins wouldn't be in this position had they not lost five straight, falling to 3-10 and out of the playoff picture. Washington has been blown out in two of the past three and are an NFL-worst minus-128 in point differential.

Upset of the week

Steelers over Bengals

The Steelers' playoff hopes are fading, but it wouldn't be surprising if they went out fighting.

Quote of the week

"We knew nobody gave us a chance, and nobody should have given us a chance either if you were outside of our locker room. But we came in with a lot of confidence. We said let's go play our best game and get another one and stay alive. Let's stay alive and see what happens."

Chargers QB Philip Rivers on his team's upset of the Broncos on Thursday night

Quick reads

• So it just took a snowstorm for Eagles QB Nick Foles to finally throw an interception? What a journey for Foles, who has gone from the backup to the cover boy of Sports Illustrated.

• Does anyone want to take the NFC North? The Packers have won just once since Halloween and are still in the thick of it because the Lions haven't been able to pull away, losing three of their past five. With QB Jay Cutler back, the Bears just might steal it.

• The Chargers' 27-20 road win over the Broncos on Thursday night was the biggest upset of the season. It also shook up the AFC playoff picture, hurting Denver's shot at the top seed. If San Diego wins out, it could join the postseason party, too.

Times wires contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow him at @TBTimes_JSmith.

NFL notes: Another Washington shutdown with RG3 12/14/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 14, 2013 7:41pm]

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