JANUARY 23, 2006

VOLUME 104, NO. 3


PRO FOOTBALL

40 Mr. Clutch

Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to the AFC title game with his arm (and a tackle)

by Jeffri Chadiha

• Denver's rebuilt D swarmed the Patriots

44 Mr. Cool

Low-key Matt Hasselbeck is the ideal QB to lead Seattle in the NFC title game

by Peter King

• Carolina's unstoppable Steve Smith


PRO BASKETBALL

48 Class of the Glass

Magic man-child Dwight Howard is a master of the lost art of rebounding

by Chris Ballard


FIGURE SKATING

52 Trials and Tribulation

Fine skating graced the U.S. nationals, but the absent Michelle Kwan stole the show

by E.M. Swift


COLLEGE BASKETBALL

54 The Son Also Rises

Florida center Joakim Noah chose a different racket from his father, Yannick

by Grant Wahl


PAUL TAGLIABUE

The Big Man The NFL commissioner is a tough ex--hoops star and a fierce intellectual

By Karl Taro Greenfeld

PAGE 58


Departments

10 Leading Off

16 Letters

19 Air and Space

The unfortunate marriage of jocks and Glocks by Steve Rushin

20 Scorecard

• Texas Western's lasting glory

• Bearded athletes' great moments

32 Faces in the Crowd

35 Players

76 Life of Reilly

No bones about it: Skeleton doesn't belong in the Games by Rick Reilly


Inside ...

68 The NBA

• How the Mavs rebuilt on the run

70 College Basketball

• Good big men getting little fanfare

72 Olympic Sports

• Two bobsled medals for a Texan?

74 The NHL

• Phil Kessel: the next big thing?


Cover

PHOTOGRAPH BY Robert Beck (Seahawks); John Biever (Panthers); Peter Read Miller (Broncos); Bob Rosato (Steelers)

Background altered by SI Imaging (Panthers)

INSET PHOTOS: David N. Berkwitz (4)

SI Extra

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ON THE WEB

GO TO SI.COM DAILY FOR SCORES, STATS AND BREAKING NEWS

•Roger Federer (right) has been ranked No. 1 in the world since Feb. 2, 2004, and is favored to win his seventh major title at this year's Australian Open. But Venus Williams's first-round loss showed how wide open the women's race is Down Under. Visit SI.com/tennis for results from Australia, Justin Gimelstob's tournament analysis and L. Jon Wertheim's mailbag.

•If Jake Plummer (left) and the Broncos defeat the Steelers on Sunday, at least one oddsmaker says that Denver would be the favorite for Super Bowl XL. Read what Peter King, Dr. Z and Don Banks have to say about the conference championships at SI.com/NFL.

•After covering the NBA for more than 30 years between them, SI senior writers Jack McCallum and L. Jon Wertheim figured they had met enough characters and seen enough madcap antics to fill a book. So that's what they did. Their satirical novel of the league, Foul Lines, will be released later this month, and three chapters will be serialized on SI.com from Jan. 25 through 27.

•In his sixth annual TV Commentator Awards a year ago, Dr. Z wrote that "the business of announcing football games has never been worse." Read his comments about this year's play-by-play men and analysts at SI.com/NFL.

•In case you hadn't noticed, redshirt freshman Candace Parker (left) and Tennessee were undefeated and ranked No. 1 at week's end. Get women's and men's weekly power rankings at SI.com/collegebasketball.

PHOTOBILL FRAKES (NOAH)  54 NOAH SWEAT
Joakim Noah scored his easiest basket of the game in unbeaten Florida's 75-60 win over Mississippi State on Jan. 11.
PHOTOROBERT BECK (SEAHAWKS)This week SI features covers of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs. PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (PANTHERS) [See caption above.] PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (BRONCOS) [See caption above.] PHOTOBOB ROSATO (STEELERS) [See caption above.] FOUR PHOTOSDAVID N. BERKWITZ (HELMETS) PHOTOLOU CAPOZZOLA (NIITTYMAKI)  74 GO AHEAD, SHOOT
Rookie goalie Antero Niittymaki has taken over the Flyers' starting job after going 8--3 on an 11-game road trip.
PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (FEDERER) PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (PLUMMER) PHOTOBILL FRAKES (PARKER)
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)