It's late in the game, and the team needs a big play. While many players have the talent to make plays happen, there are certain intangibles that create the perception that a select few are more than good. They are clutch.
However, not all players get this distinction. While there are many routes to the designation of un-clutch (some deserved, some not), it's clear that when the game is on the line, you're not betting the farm on these specific guys.
Here is the breakdown of each team's least clutch player.
Life has been rough for the Arizona Cardinals this season, particularly so at its quarterback position. Starter (and major offseason acquisition) Kevin Kolb has found himself out of commission, and so it had to turn to backup John Skelton.
Unfortunately, Skelton has not been able to produce. Despite a receiving corps that includes all-world wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and a running game based around the very competent Chris "Beanie" Wells, Skelton's number are far from impressive.
Throwing only four touchdowns to seven interceptions, and completing just around half of his passes, there's little room to doubt he's not the guy the Cardinals were hoping for.
Unfortunately, his time in the starter's role also appears to be over. Kolb is slated to return to action Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner is an absolute beast, which is why it was disappointing to see him stuffed in the team's overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Needing a single yard on a fourth down in their own territory, Turner's protection lapsed, and he was unable to find a new hole to work through.
For a guy that has in many ways put the team's success on his back, there's no doubt he feels the frustration about the failed conversion.
It's tough to dislike what Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been able to do this year, but that success is lined on the fact he puts up a significant number of turnovers.
In addition to eight interceptions, he leads the league's quarterbacks with five lost fumbles.
For a team that has found itself so close to the Super Bowl, it's imperative that Flacco can cut down on these mistakes.
While I was a big fan of Stevie Johnson's big touchdown celebration Sunday, the outcome of said celebration is enough to make any Buffalo Bills fan cringe.
Falling to the ground on the tail end of the celebration, he was immediately flagged for excessive celebration. That field position, along with a flubbed kick, allowed the New York Jets to score a critical touchdown only three plays later.
To make matters worse, Johnson had a shot to play hero near the end of the game, yet found a perfect pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick slip through his hands.
For a guy looking to have some fun on the field, his efforts truly shot the team in their collective foot.
The Carolina Panthers have not found a way to convert their big offensive numbers into a huge number of wins, which makes missed kicks like this one from Olindo Mare all the more painful.
The Panthers, down by three with less than a minute in their game against the Minnesota Vikings, left Mare with a short kick to take the contest to overtime.
Unfortunately, Mare's missed kick ended the game in the most un-clutch way possible.
This highlight, shown about a million times this week, is about as un-clutch of a way to end a game as possible.
The Chicago Bears' Caleb Hanie, rolling the team's offense down the field, hesitated and moved back after a snap intended to set up a spike. Throwing down the ball, he didn't realize his error until it was too late to save his team from a painful intentional grounding penalty.
To make matters worse, the penalty also drained 10 seconds from the clock, ending the game. Surely this past Sunday will be an afternoon he will want to forget.
When the Cincinnati Bengals needed a clutch acting performance, they got one from wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
There's no doubt Simpson will be a major contributor to the team's offense, just as soon as the league approves bonus points for squads with players earning Oscar nominations.
Sometimes it's easy to get into a bad funk, unfortunately for long snapper Ryan Pontbriand he couldn't break out of it (or snap out of it I should say).
His recent play had been marred with sloppy mistakes, including a snap that bounced off of the ankle of lineman Alex Mack.
The Browns cut Pontbriand Wednesday.
While Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been pretty solid in late game situations this year, those performances are only slight rehab from his previous image as major late-game goat.
In this most famous example, Romo bobbled a snap that would have allowed the Cowboys to complete a playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks. Running for the end zone and first down, Romo was then tackled inches short of the marker.
In other words, Romo has much to do to wipe his slate of past un-clutch play from the books.
While the Denver Broncos may have cut quarterback Kyle Orton (who is now with the Kansas City Chiefs), his time with the organization was marred by inconsistent play when it counted.
Despite averaging more that twice the yardage per game than his successor Tim Tebow, Orton couldn't seem to put the right plays together near the end of games, and quickly found himself on the outs with both fans and team management.
Now with the Chiefs, one can only hope he can provide some stability to a team absolutely devastated by injuries up and down the roster.
This may seem a bit harsh, so let me explain:
1) Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is ridiculously good.
2) Suh finds himself in trouble a lot more often than his peers, including an early ejection from the team's game against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving (mocked in this computer animated video).
3) How can someone be considered clutch if they're suspended or ejected before the big moments in a game can come up?
It was incredibly tough to a pick a weak link in the perfect Green Bay Packers; the team is just too good right now.
However, looking back on the previous year, there was some concern that wide receiver James Jones had a bit of an issue with ball control (demonstrated by the above video).
His reception numbers seems to have plateaued this season, but I'm sure there will be plenty of people who are concerned with these kind of simple drops in big games later this year.
When it comes to being clutch, it's impossible to meet that level if you're not on the field. Unfortunately, the team's first two starters, Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart both are out for the rest of the season with injuries.
While the team was able to scrape by with rookie T.J. Yates, one has to wonder on the stability of an organization that is willing to dig the bottom of the barrel to draw in an over the hill Jake Delhomme.
While a player's ability to perform in a clutch way is important, that cannot happen if they're not performing decently in regular game situations. If that's the case, that blame has to fall to the coaching staff.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell has shown that his calm demeanor has failed to inspire confidence in his players, and as a result they now find themselves on the depressing road to a winless season.
Regardless of quarterback Peyton Manning's health status for 2012, the Colts and Caldwell have major soul searching to do on how to turn this team around.
It's been a slow learning curve for Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, so it's tough to throw him on this list so soon.
However, Gabbert has just not shown the same kind of spark his fellow rookies have so far. While other quarterbacks (like Cam Newton or Andy Dalton) are rising, Gabbert seems to be stuck in place.
With the team going through tremendous overhauls this week, it's going to be interesting to see the team's patience in allowing him to develop into next season.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is immensely talented, and unlike most of his teammates he is fully healthy. That's why for so many, this clip is a cause of a lot of frustration.
With the Chiefs making one final push against the Pittsburgh Steelers, quarterback Tyler Palko threw a long pass high into traffic in the direction of Bowe. However, Bowe sensed the pressure and potential hit, and decided to stay down to avoid the big contact.
It's tough to be clutch when you don't even make the effort.
While the past month has been a big improvement, Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore has struggled since taking the starting role.
His accuracy was less than impressive, the team wasn't winning and frustration was mounting. However, he's slowly shown in the team's recent three-game win streak that he might have what it takes to hang around for a while in South Beach.
Some of those early struggles were on display in the team's game against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Moore missed several open passes that would have put the team in great field position.
I really hate putting Donovan McNabb on this list, as I have been a huge fan of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, it has become apparent this season that he is no longer capable of leading a team with any kind of success.
He may have been put in a tough situation with a rebuilding squad (and few receiving options), but McNabb hardly inspired confidence with stories that coaches were attempting to change his motion, much to his chagrin.
The Vikings seem to be in much better shape since making the switch to rookie Christian Ponder. He may not be the best quarterback option, but he has the potential to be a regular for a while in the Twin Cities.
Honorable mention: The roof of the Metrodome.
While it's tough to put anybody on this list from the New England Patriots, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco will have to do.
The prolific receiver has seen his workload drop to almost zero since joining the team, and while he has recently seen his numbers jump, it's tough to imagine how he'll be able to make a lasting contribution this season (barring injury).
Right now, he's not the clutch guy the team will look to for wins..
"Don't get tackled into the coach, don't get tackled into the coach, don't get tackled into the coach....oh no, I got tackled into the coach!"
While he hasn't had enough kicks to fully summarize his success rate, New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes appears to be on the decline.
His percentages have gone down, and the Giants have only used him sparingly this season.
He is currently 11 of 14 of the year. Not bad, but nothing to really inspire great faith that he'll be putting through the big kick.
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has had an interesting past few weeks, with his play coming under greater scrutiny and fans booing him at home. In the three game period leading into this past Sunday, he had thrown four interceptions to only two touchdowns.
However, his huge day against the Buffalo Bills (four touchdowns, one interception) could be a sign that something is working correctly.
While Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey has seen his output go up this season, that success must be balanced with his un-clutch ways during his earlier seasons.
In addition to struggling to gain separation from defenders, he also had major problems with holding onto passes.
Even as his numbers improve, I'm not sold that he is the guy quarterback Carson Palmer will be throwing to when it comes to the team's pressure moments.
In a big contract year for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, one would assume he would try to act his best for potential future employers.
However, what fans have seen all year from Jackson is a combination of injuries, inconsistencies and selfishness. Definitely not the kind of clutch play that we've seen from him in the past.
Jackson is an incredibly talented player, but until he gets his head on straight it appears he'll never be able to reach his full potential.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Mewelde Moore has secured a secondary role in the team's ground attack, but unfortunately has seen ball protection become an issue.
Despite his limited carries, he has found his way into two fumbles, both which went for turnovers (including this one against the Kansas City Chiefs at the goal line).
If he wants to prove himself to be a bigger part of the offense, he'll need to find a way to keep the ball in his hands.
Quarterback Philip Rivers is the face of the San Diego Chargers franchise, which makes it a shame he is so prone to sloppy mistakes. In addition to being among the top of the league in interceptions thrown, he's also given up fumbles at horribly inopportune times.
In this video above, Rivers is lamenting a broken snap that resulted in the Charger losing the ball to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers were in easy range for their kicker Nick Novak, and were moving the ball to make things easier to line up.
Overall, the makings of the "worst day ever."
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. may shine for the special teams (his two return touchdowns in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks were spectacular), but his play on the offense leaves something to be desired. His main issue: An inability to keep his hands on the ball.
As this video clearly shows, the troubles he has now are nothing new. Ginn's troubles continued Thanksgiving day, as he dropped a pass on the team's final drive against the Baltimore Ravens.
Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Red Bryant has been a beast in the special teams game (including two blocks this past week against the Washington Redskins). However, one play in particular has forced me to move him to this list.
In a tight game against the Cleveland Browns (which would end 6-3), Bryant was teased into headbutting an opposing player. The resulting penalty moved the Browns into a position where they could drain the clock (the result of the previous play would have initially set up a Browns punt), and Bryant was ejected.
Not a clutch play from one of the few bright spots of the lowly Seahawks this season.
Arizona Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson has three return touchdowns against the St. Louis Rams this season, and even after the team allowed its first punt return touchdown, Rams punter Donnie Jones kept driving the ball in his direction.
Clearly the right solution is to kick at him even more….right?
No long explanation here.
Albert Haynesworth is the exact opposite of clutch, with both the play and attitude unbecoming of a guy who only a few seasons ago was considered one of the top defensive lineman in the game.
He is the designated un-clutch player until further notice.
The stat sheet that sunk a thousand fantasy football teams, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson has been far from clutch this season.
The disappointing play and stats comes almost immediately after he signed a monster contract extension, making him one of the highest paid players in the game.
While he finally exploded this week for an outrageous 190 yards, Johnson's play leaves major questions on how he'll be able to contribute in 2012.
Not all players take failure in clutch situations the same way. After allowing Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten to beat him for the game-winning score, the Washington Redskins' DeAngelo Hall, for example, both blamed himself for the team's loss and offered himself to be cut for his poor play.
While the team did not follow through on his offer, Hall's candor was definitely refreshing in a league that finds players constantly passing the buck in terms of recognizing fault.