In Week 1 they were the NFL's most accommodating losers--all of America was rooting for New Orleans. In Week 2 they pulled off the league's most impressive win, blitzing the usually imperturbable Tom Brady off his game and racking up three rushing touchdowns. Now, the livin' looks easy: Panthers have only five more games against teams that had winning records last season.
In the words of Sp√Ønal Tap bassist Derek Smalls: Hello, Cleveland! Baseball's Tribe had won 12 of 13, were 33-11 since July 31 and were closing in on the White Sox in the AL Central. The Indians rolled into Chicago this week just 3 1/2 games back (they were 15 back on Aug. 1) and leading the wild-card race. Next up: lowly foes Kansas City and Tampa Bay. Says centerfielder Grady Sizemore, 23, of the young team's run: "It's a blast."
USC's Trojans overwhelmed Arkansas to stay firmly at No. 1 in the AP poll for a record 22nd straight week. The Spartans of Michigan State conquered Notre Dame. And the Tennessee Titans, by Zeus!, halted Ravens running back Jamal Lewis (he had just nine yards) in a surprise 25-10 win.
Even with a bad wheel (he sprained his left arch in the second quarter), the Bucs rookie back stayed the course for 128 yards in a win over Buffalo. That's two consecutive games with more than 125 yards. "[They were] saying, 'Cadillac, you ain't going to do this, you ain't going to do that,'" Williams (right) said of the Buffalo defenders. "I love it."
Green Bay Packers
In Week 1 the Pack fell to the Lions, and lost star receiver Javon Walker for the season. In Week 2 the unheralded Browns came to Lambeau and wrecked the high of Reggie White's number-retirement day. The Pack hasn't had a losing season since 1991. Is this their year for one? "Teams will see weakness and say we are a different team," said Brett Favre (right). "To a certain degree ... I agree."
After being undone by UCLA (page 81), the fumbling (six of 'em last Saturday), class-cutting (running back Adrian Peterson didn't start after skipping school) Oklahoma footballers are 1-2 for the first time since coach Bob Stoops took over in 1999. The lone Big 12 team with a losing record is out of the Top 25. Said Stoops of Saturday's showing, "It's just poor football."
That would be Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper, to be precise. His season so far: eight interceptions, zero touchdowns, two fumbles and a league-low passer rating that looks like an autumn temperature reading in Minneapolis: 41.6. He is the leader of a winless team and he no longer has his old friend Randy Moss to bail him out.
Hockey is back, and so is this Blues left wing, a three-time All-Star and two-time Olympian. Well, he was back until he failed his physical and was suspended, for reportedly being well over his playing weight of 231 pounds. "It's disappointing," said St. Louis coach Mike Kitchen of his $7.6 million-a-year star (right). "We were looking for him to be our best player."
SI PLAYERS POLL
Based on a survey of 450 MLB players
For an expanded version of the poll go to SI.com/scorecard.
Which team has the coolest uniforms?
Red Sox 7%
Which team has the ugliest uniforms?
Devil Rays 22%
FAST FACTS: Every team but the Rockies and the White Sox drew at least one vote for "coolest." ... The Yankees received 38% of the coolest vote from players with 10 or more years of experience but got only 14% from players with one to five years.