This is an article from the Nov. 17, 2008 issue
Livin' up to the hype. The Falcons preternaturally poised rookie—can you believe this cat's just nine games into his career—threw two more TDs Sunday, giving him 11 against just five picks. And he may be licking his young chops: Up next are the Broncos, with the league's 29th-ranked pass defense.
This is soooo Raven: snarling linebacker Ray Lewis (Poll, below) leading a Baltimore defense that's allowing fewer than 17 points a game. And that's not the only reason the team's tied for first. They pass (QBs Joe Flacco and Troy Smith threw TDs on Sunday), they run (Willis McGahee, left, went for 112 yards), and they catch. Receiver Derrick Mason: "We're not waiting on the defense."
Olé, baby! The Brazilian bull rider held on—we mean literally— to win the PBR title and a $1 million bonus, inspiring hundreds of giddy and shimmying supporters to pour onto the arena floor in Las Vegas.
A new era in D.C.? The Caps, who began last season 2--7 on home ice, went unbeaten in their first six games at the Verizon Center—despite a slump by MVP Alex Ovechkin. That augurs even better days. Defensemen Tom Poti: "We haven't reached our peak."
His uneven season got even unevener. The Rams QB only lasted a half against the Jets—enough time to lose a fumble, throw an interception and lead zero scoring drives. Now Bulger's starting job, seemingly ironclad when coach Jim Haslett took over in Week 5 could soon be lost to Trent Green.
Not just the Nittany kind. Far from Penn State's crushing defeat in Iowa City, Detroit's Lions welcomed Daunte to the inferno that seems their eternal destiny. QB Culpepper (right) threw 10 passes in his Lions debut, a loss, of course, before just 52,631 at Ford Field. At 0--9 the team's now 40--97 this millennium. Culpepper to Detroit's Free Press: "I ain't scared of a challenge."
Driving like a lame duck. NASCAR'S preeminent rogue, eyeing life as the co-owner of a new team next season, waddled home in 22nd place at Phoenix on Sunday, dropping him to dead last in the Chase.
Times are tough in the nation's capital. Through five games everyone had beat the Wiz, the East's only winless team. Gilbert Arenas is injured, so is Brendan Haywood, and Antawn Jamison (left) is seething: "The makeup of the locker room," he said, "needs to change."
SI PLAYERS NFL POLL
Which NFL player would you least like to mess with?
Ray Lewis, Ravens LB 16%
Albert Haynesworth, Titans DT 11%
Larry Allen, Retired, G 6%
Shawne Merriman, Chargers LB 4%
Leonard Davis, Cowboys G 4%
QBs are especially wary of Lewis; more than 35% of them named him.... The 6'3", 325-pound Allen, who retired in August after 13 seasons, was widely regarded as the NFL's strongest man.... Haynesworth (SI, Nov. 10) was the AFC's defensive player of the month in September.... Panthers receiver Steve Smith (1.2%) was the only skill position player to get more than 1% of the vote.
[Based on a survey of 320 NFL players] • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.