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NFL news and notes for Week 17

Much has been said about whether Bucs coach Raheem Morris will return. Winning a third straight game today couldn't hurt him. But several other NFL coaches find themselves on the hot seat and may be in their last game with their team today. Redskins coach Jim Zorn and Bills interim coach Perry Fewell appear like givens to be gone. A look at three others and their chances of coming back:

Eric Mangini, Browns

With Mike Holmgren taking over as Browns president, there's a good chance Mangini's era in Cleveland could be one and done. Fired as Jets coach in 2008, Mangini is 4-11 this season. Though the Browns have won three straight, two of them came against the Chiefs and Raiders. Holmgren, who will meet with Mangini on Monday, said he hasn't made a decision and isn't a fan of the "quick hook," but he didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement, either.

Gary Kubiak, Texans

Kubiak has done a decent job since taking over his hometown Texans in 2006, considering the 2-14 mess he was handed and the division he's in (Colts, Titans, Jaguars). But after back-to-back 8-8 seasons (and if they lose today, another .500 record), owner Bob McNair might try to find someone else who can take the Texans to the next step (and the playoffs). Players have supported Kubiak, who has led the team to three straight wins, but McNair has been noncommittal on his future.

Lovie Smith, Bears

Yes, Smith led the Bears to the Super Bowl after the 2006 season and provided a great story with he and Tony Dungy being the first African-American coaches to reach the big game. But since, Chicago has missed the playoffs three straight years and has had several blowout losses this year (after acquiring a "franchise" quarterback in Jay Cutler). Two weeks ago, GM Jerry Angelo dismissed a report Smith was coming back as "speculation," which doesn't sound good considering he's owed $11 million over the next two years.

Swan song

49ers WR Isaac Bruce, above, will get a chance to play against his former team today, in what could be the final game of his 16-year career. Bruce hasn't played in more than a month, making way for the team's younger receivers, but — in a Rudy-esque move — fellow WR Josh Morgan asked coach Mike Singletary to bench him against St. Louis for Bruce, who made four Pro Bowls with the Rams. Bruce, 37, ranks second all time with 15,208 yards (Jerry Rice, 22,895). Said Rams RB Steven Jackson: "It's going to be a special moment for all Rams fans. He was part of the Greatest Show on Turf."

Upset special

Saints (13-2) at Panthers (7-8)

The Saints don't look so scary after two straight losses, and the Panthers have been playing better behind backup QB Matt Moore.

What they're writing

"Winning 13 of 15 games doesn't cover the fact that no NFC playoff team is playing worse right now than the Saints, or that none appear riper to be had with one week remaining in the regular season."

John DeShazier, New Orleans' Times-Picayune

Passing fancy

This has been a record year for quarterbacks. Eight have thrown for at least 4,000 yards, the most 4,000-yard passers in a season in league history. Three others are within 300 yards of 4,000: the Vikings' Brett Favre (3,886), Giants' Eli Manning (3,880) and Cardinals' Kurt Warner (3,722).

Times wires, the New York Post, the San Jose Mercury News, Bloomberg and the NFL contributed to this report.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

NFL WEEK 17

Power rankings

1. Colts

2. Chargers

3. Eagles

4. Saints

5. Vikings

Just like Jerry

Texans WR Andre Johnson leads the league in receiving yards for the second straight season (he has 1,504). If he holds onto the lead, Johnson will join Jerry Rice as the only players since 1970 to be No. 1 in receiving yards in consecutive seasons. Rice did it twice: 1989-90 and 1993-95.

Number of the week

Browns KR Joshua Cribbs, right, has 2,405 total yards to lead the league.

Milestone watch

Titans RB Chris Johnson, right, who has 2,355 scrimmage yards in 15 games, needs 75 yards from scrimmage today against the Seahawks to pass Marshall Faulk's NFL record (2,429 in 1999).

Prediction of the week

Steelers LB LaMar Woodley thinks that some teams, including the Bengals, will "lay down" because they don't want to see Pittsburgh make the playoffs. In one of the many playoff scenarios, the Steelers would need the Bengals to beat the Jets to keep the wild-card spot open. "All of them lay down," Woodley said. "No one wants to see Pittsburgh in it. That's just how it is. Everybody knows we're a dangerous team once we get into the playoffs, no matter how we played the whole year. Once we get into the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers is a playoff team."

Tweet trash talk of the week

When Jets CB Darrelle Revis, left, missed Wednesday's practice with an illness, he joked it was "Ocho fever." Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco has used Twitter for trash talk, tweeting that he will "embarrass" Revis, one of the NFL's best defensive backs. "We'll see (today)," Revis said. "The message is: You can't Tweet on Sundays. You've got to leave your phone in the locker room and bring your 'A' game."

NFL news and notes for Week 17 01/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 9:16pm]
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