Nnamdi Asomugha has gotten used to hearing his Nigerian surname mispronounced since he was a child. For the record, it's AWE-sum-WAH - with the emphasis on awesome.

Therein lies the incongruity.

Asomugha does such a good job at cornerback for the Oakland Raiders that opposing quarterbacks have made a habit since 2007 of not throwing the ball in his direction, which generally has kept his numbers down.

It also hasn't helped Asomugha's profile that he has played on one of the NFL's worst teams since his rookie season, 2003. But the secret is out: The six-year veteran may be the premier man-to-man corner in the game. He recently was named to his first Pro Bowl. And today against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he will go head-to-head with arguably the league's hottest wide receiver, Antonio Bryant (435 yards and four touchdowns in his last four games).

"I've played Antonio before, and I know the type of player that he is," Asomugha, 27, said in a conference call. "He's a great competitor and loves to go after the ball. He's one of those guys that you have to bring your best for."

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound defender recalls their last meeting, when Bryant played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2006. "I can't remember what his stats were at the end of that game, but I remember it was a good battle, every time that I was on him," Asomugha said. The 49ers won, 30-24, with Bryant catching three passes for 27 yards.

"Nnamdi is special," Bucs coach Jon Gruden told the St. Petersburg Times. "He's in your face all the time. No. 21. And he doesn't back down for anybody."

Being assigned to cover the opposing team's top receiver is nothing new to Asomugha.

"With me, a lot of times each week, the matchup is hyped up," he said. "I'm going to be honest with you: With me, personally, I don't even look at the matchups. Really, I focus more on myself and what I need to do to be successful and not as much on the receiver I'm going up against."

The Raiders designated Asomugha a franchise player in 2007, but the one-year deal he signed for 2008 soon will be up, and the club will have to pay big money to keep him in silver and black in 2009.

Ravens.

Derrick Mason is suffering from a shoulder injury, but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said the wide receiver will play today against Jacksonville, ESPN.com reported.

Cardinals.

Arizona's starters will play today against Seattle (4-11) in a meaningless regular-season finale as the NFC West champion tries to pull out of a late-season tailspin.

The Cardinals (8-7) are locked into the fourth seed in the NFC playoffs, but they have dropped four of their last five games.

Bills.

Buffalo put rookie receiver James Hardy on injured reserve yesterday, ending his season a day before the Bills end their schedule.

Hardy tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee two weeks ago.

Noteworthy.

Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN.com that a modification to rookie wages in the NFL is likely, but not before 2011.

"We do expect change at some point after 2010 - in order to shift more money to proven vets," Goodell said. . . . Former New England Patriots player and high school football coach Danny Villa, 44, surrendered to police in his native Tucson, Ariz., yesterday, one day after a court in Massachusetts issued a warrant for his arrest on charges that he raped a child.

He played in 12 NFL seasons, six with New England.

Walpole (Mass.) Police Chief Richard Stillman said Villa's attorney has indicated that Villa plans to waive rendition. He faces three counts of rape of a child over 14 and three counts of enticing a minor, he said.

Villa had been working as a football coach at Walpole High School. He resigned Tuesday, hours after the school superintendent confronted him over allegations of criminal misconduct filed by a parent a day earlier.

NFL:

NFL Playoff Scenarios

AFC EAST

MIAMI:

Can clinch the division with:

1) A win

2) A tie and a New England loss or tie.

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A tie and a Baltimore loss.

NEW ENGLAND:

Can clinch the division with:

1) A win and Miami loss or tie

2) A tie and a Miami loss

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win and a Baltimore loss or tie.

2) A tie and a Baltimore loss.

N.Y. JETS:

Can clinch the division with:

1) A win and a New England loss.

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win and a Baltimore loss.

AFC SOUTH

TENNESSEE:

Clinched the division, first-round bye and

homefield advantage.

INDIANAPOLIS:

Clinched a playoff spot.

AFC NORTH

PITTSBURGH:

Clinched the division and a first-round

bye.

BALTIMORE:

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win.

2) A tie and a Miami loss or tie.

3) A tie and a New England loss or tie.

4) A New England loss.

AFC WEST

DENVER:

Can clinch the division with:

1) A win or tie.

SAN DIEGO:

Can clinch the division with:

1) A win.

NFC EAST

N.Y. GIANTS:

Clinched the division and homefield

advantage.

DALLAS:

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win.

2) A tie, a Chicago loss or tie and a Tampa Bay loss.

3) A tie, a Minnesota loss or tie and a Tampa Bay loss.

4) A tie, a Chicago loss and a Tampa Bay tie.

5) A tie, a Minnesota loss and a Tampa Bay tie.

EAGLES:

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win and losses by Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

2) A win and losses by Tampa Bay and Chicago.

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA:

Clinched a playoff spot.

Can clinch the division and a first-round bye with:

1) A win and a Carolina loss.

CAROLINA:

Clinched a playoff spot.

Can clinch division and first-round bye with:

1) A win or tie.

2) An Atlanta lose or tie.

TAMPA BAY:

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win and a Dallas loss or tie.

2) A tie, a Dallas loss and a Minnesota loss or tie.

3) A tie, a Dallas loss and a Chicago loss or tie.

4) A tie, a Dallas tie, a Minnesota tie and a Chicago win or tie.

5) A tie, a Dallas tie, a Chicago tie and a Minnesota win or tie.

NFC NORTH

MINNESOTA:

Can clinch the division with:

1) A win.

2) A tie and a Chicago loss or tie.

3) A Chicago loss.

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win and losses by Dallas and Tampa Bay.

CHICAGO:

Can clinch the division with:

1) A win and a Minnesota loss or tie.

2) A tie and a Minnesota loss.

Can clinch a playoff spot with:

1) A win and losses or ties by Dallas and Tampa Bay.

2) A tie and losses by Dallas and Tampa Bay.

NFC WEST

ARIZONA:

Clinched the division.