This is an article from the Dec. 17, 2007 issue
The Texans sophomore end likes to apply pressure and likes to get it. The 2006 No. 1 draft pick attributes his sack surge (5 1/2 in four games; 9 1/2 for the year) partly to "the coaches being on me, the players being on me, making me be accountable." He also plays 95% of the defensive snaps for Houston, which still has a playoff pulse after Sunday's win. Super Mario indeed.
The team's lousy (5--15), but coach Pat Riley (right) became the fastest NBA coach to 1,200 wins (he was 1,200--642 through Sunday), and owner Micky Arison—he also owns the Carnival cruise line—was named the richest team owner in the U.S. by Forbes.com, worth $5.8 billion.
Things are good at work (he's the NFC's top-rated passer, his Cowboys are 11--1, and he's drawing comparisons with Elway) and in love (Romo and Jessica Simpson are gossip-page darlings). Now all he needs for Christmas is a top two seed (and a bye) for the playoffs.
The good life in Nashville: On Dec. 1 the Predators center had a goal and two assists. Last Friday he signed a six-year, $27 million contract. Last Saturday he helped beat the defending champion Ducks.
As the Lions have slipped (five straight losses), so too has their once menacing nosetackle. Rogers has zero sacks and just three solo tackles in those games, and the big fella (listed at 6'4", 340 pounds) keeps heading to the sideline during key defensive plays. Why? Well, said analyst Troy Aikman on Sunday—and many observers concur—"he's just not in shape."
The team's lousy (3--10), and coach Eric Mangini (né Man-genius) is being second-guessed for his field-goal-first mentality at the end of Sunday's loss. Things get tougher for Mangini (right): Up next is archenemy Bill Belichick (the Jets outed him in Spygate) and, gulp, the 13--0 Patriots.
Maybe Mrs. McNabb isn't feeding her son enough soup. He keeps running out of gas before the end zone. (The Eagles have two or fewer TDs in seven of his last eight games.) So, will rookie QB Kevin Kolb get to play? Why not. Philly's playoff hopes are headed up the chimney faster than Santa.
Tough times in L.A. The Kings' captain is an unsightly -11, he has four assists (and no goals) in 18 games, and last Saturday he got ejected for jawing at a ref in a game against Phoenix. Worse: The Kings are dead last in the West.
SI PLAYERS NFL POLL
Who is the most intimidating offensive lineman in football?
Larry Allen, 49ers left guard 22%
Jonathan Ogden, Ravens left tackle 15%
Walter Jones, Seahawks left tackle 10%
Kyle Turley, Chiefs right tackle 7%
Orlando Pace, Rams left tackle 5%
Players could not vote for a teammate.... The Bears' Olin Kreutz (8th, 4.3%) and the Broncos' Tom Nalen (15th, 1.3%) were the only centers among the top 15 vote getters.... Allen, an 11-time Pro Bowler is widely regarded as the NFL's strongest man; he once benched 225 pounds 43 times in a competition at the Pro Bowl .... At 6'9" (and 345 pounds) Ogden is the NFL's tallest player.
[Based on a survey of 278 NFL players] • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.