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Doc's NFL Notebook

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PSR's James Santelli takes a look at issues around the league, including the Panthers options now that Andrew Luck has chose to return to Stanford rather than enter the NFL Draft, and the future of Donovan McNabb.

No Such Luck
The postseason picture in the NFC may have been murky before the final week of the season, but the Carolina Panthers' fate had already been sealed. With a loss at Pittsburgh and victories by the Broncos and Bengals in Week 16, the 2-14 Panthers clinched the No. 1 pick in the 2011 Draft. Unfortunately for Carolina, the best eligible prospect, Stanford sophomore QB Andrew Luck, chose not to declare for this year's draft. With the consensus top choice Luck remaining in school, the Panthers could go with talented Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, or address their league-worst offense by selecting Georgia WR A.J. Green.
Collie Injured
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning lost a main piece to his offense's puzzle in late December. Receiver Austin Collie suffered his second concussion of the season in the team's Week 15 game against Jacksonville, forcing him out for the rest of the season. Though Collie only played in nine games, he led the Colts with nine touchdown receptions and was second on the team in catches at the time of his injury. In a year marked by the NFL cracking down on over-aggressive tackling, the concussions Collie suffered due to a pair of big hits could put the 25-year-old receiver's career in jeopardy.
Barnstorming Vikings
December can be hectic month for many travelers, with plans constantly changing due to winter storms. The Minnesota Vikings were no exception to Mother Nature's rule. After three panels failed on the roof of the Metrodome gave way to a foot and a half of snow, the Vikings had to postpone their Week 14 game against the Giants and eventually play it at Ford Field in Detroit. When it was clear the roof could not be fixed quickly, the team moved a home game against the Bears outdoors, to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium. The team couldn't escape the snow once they left the Gopher State, though, as a post-Christmas blizzard rocked the east coast, moving the Vikings' Sunday Night game at Philadelphia to Tuesday. The Vikes finally got a reprieve from the weather in January, finishing their season indoors at Detroit.
Cannot Win With 'Em
The day after Christmas was not so merry for coach Mike Singletary. His San Francisco 49ers were eliminated from the division and playoff race following a 25-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams, and shortly thereafter, Singletary was relieved of his coaching duties. The Hall of Famer couldn't turn the Niners around after the team lost its first five games, and a 5-10 record was not enough to maintain job security in a poor NFC West division. Singletary was one of four head coaches to be fired midseason, along with Wade Phillips of the Cowboys, Josh McDaniels of the Broncos, and Brad Childress of the Vikings. Carolina's John Fox, whose contract was allowed to run out, is not returning to the Panthers.
Quarterback for Hire?
Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange year it's been for Donovan McNabb. The 34-year-old quarterback started the year with back-to-back losses at Cowboys Stadium (Week 17, Wild Card round) with the Eagles. Then the team's all-time leading passer was traded to the Redskins for two draft picks. McNabb got off to a 4-3 start in Washington, but was benched for the two-minute drill during a Week 8 game at Detroit. After getting his starting job back, he was inexplicably signed to a five-year, $78 million extension, and was subsequently benched again in favor of Rex Grossman. Though McNabb denied a report that he asked the Redskins for his release, he is still likely to be cut or traded before he is owed a $10 million bonus this spring, meaning he will only be due $3.75 million from the team.
Hardly Offensive
The Chicago Bears should have the phrase “Defense Wins Championships” plastered somewhere at their headquarters in Lake Forest, Illinois. The wisdom behind that common refrain is what the team is banking on in the playoffs. In 2006, the Bears rode a top-five defense to a 13-3 record and an NFC Championship. Through Week 16 of this season, Chicago was ranked 30th in the NFL in total offense with 294 yards per game, benefitting mostly from the league's fourth-ranked scoring defense and a +4 turnover margin. The Bears became the first team to win its division with an offense in the bottom three of the NFL since the 1985 Los Angeles Rams won the NFC West while racking up only 283 yards per game.

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