This is an article from the Dec. 29, 2008 issue
How distant their early struggles seem. Eight straight wins means a record 10th consecutive playoff berth for coach Tony Dungy. This season's run hasn't been all the doing of MVP-caliber Peyton Manning. Indy's once-iffy D has given up just 17 points a game in the streak, helped by sack-hungry Robert Mathis (above) and Dwight Freeney. Now Dungy can rest guys in the season finale.
What an RB, what a night! After averaging an all-right 4.7 yards a carry over two weeks, the little Giant (at 5'11", he's five inches shorter than top back Brandon Jacobs) ran up 215 yards in the NFC clincher versus Carolina. Coach Tom Coughlin's expert breakdown: "Whew, wow!"
The top-ranked women and the No. 2 men were both bouncing along at 10--0 through Monday. The men have their Price (senior A.J.) just right. His 24 points helped beat tough Gonzaga in OT.
A rich year-ender for the PGA's top earner. After making $6.6 million on the Tour, Vijay Singh—the dude's 45, mind you—took home $1.35 million by winning Tiger Woods's charity tournament in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Woods, recovering from knee surgery, presented the check; Vijay asked him not to hurry back.
Remember those back-to-back wins? That glimmer of hope under new coach Jim Haslett? That was nine straight losses ago. Haslett's M.O. got questioned after Sunday's especially galling defeat: a blown 13-point lead at home against so-so San Francisco. But, said QB Marc Bulger (above), to St. Louis's Post-Dispatch, "Haz had us playing [hard].... It's just we're not good enough."
Oy, whadda day. The perennial third-string QB has been starting for Cleveland (because of injuries). Sunday's result: 17 pass attempts, 68 yards and three picks to ensure a 14--0 loss to the Bengals. The crusher: Dorsey left in the fourth quarter with hurt ribs and a mild concussion.
The women are getting by, sort of, at 4--5, but the men? Four straight losses is undignified. So's this: Coach Bruiser Flint got banned for a game by his conference after taking too many T's in an L to Bucknell.
Those are the initials on golfer Anthony Kim's big ol' belt buckle—though the real buckling was done by the man himself. Leading in Thousand Oaks as the final round began, the 23-year-old fan fave (left) shot a 73, including two late double bogeys. After the fade he said he was just happy he "kept it under 80."
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
Which is the most underrated team in the NBA?
Portland Trail Blazers 18%
Atlanta Hawks 16%
Utah Jazz 12%
New York Knicks 7%
New Orleans Hornets 6%
Players couldn't vote for their own team.... Led by Brandon Roy (above left) the Blazers were 17--10 though Sunday, the same record as that of the Hawks, for whom Joe Johnson (above right) is the top scorer.... The Knicks (11--16) were averaging 104.4 points, third in the league.... The Jazz was one of only five NBA teams to have six players averaging 12 points or better.
[Based on a survey of 190 NBA players] • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.