COLIN KAEPERNICK HAD AN ARMY OF SKEPTICS WHEN HE TOOK OVER THE 49ERS IN MIDSEASON. BUT AFTER ONE OF THE MOST ELECTRIFYING PLAYOFF DEBUTS IN NFL HISTORY, HE STANDS ONE GAME FROM THE SUPER BOWL, AND NOBODY'S DOUBTING THAT HE BELONGS AMONG THE BIG BOYS
THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES FOR THE UNFLAPPABLE JOE FLACCO TO FINALLY EARN HIS DUE—AN EPIC COMEBACK ON PEYTON'S HOME TURF? SO BE IT. AS FLACCO HEADS TO NEW ENGLAND TO FACE TOM BRADY, LET US MAKE ROOM FOR HIM IN THE UPPER ECHELON OF NFL QUARTERBACKS
WHERE DID THE END BEGIN FOR THE RED SOX? LONG BEFORE THEIR HISTORIC 2011 COLLAPSE, THE SEEDS WERE PLANTED BY A FRONT OFFICE THAT SIMULTANEOUSLY GREW INATTENTIVE TOWARD BASEBALL BUT OBSESSED WITH IMAGE (MORE SEXY PLAYERS LIKE DUSTIN PEDROIA?!)
CAN NATHAN NOBLE, A 29-YEAR-OLD COMBAT VETERAN WHO WAS DISCOVERED ON YOUTUBE, MAKE IT AS A D--I PLACEKICKER? HE'S WALKING ON AT WYOMING, WHERE HE HOPES TO DO MORE THAN BOOT A FEW GAME-WINNERS. HE'S TRYING TO REDISCOVER A SENSE OF PURPOSE
The frantic 48-game schedule, who's back from where (and in what kind of shape) and which milestones are approaching: Everything you need to know for 2013—starting with the team that will hoist the Cup
No Great Deed Goes Unrecorded North Carolina State forward C.J. Leslie celebrated amid the smartphones after the Wolfpack's 84--76 upset of top-ranked and previously undefeated Duke in Raleigh last Saturday. Leslie scored a game-high 25 points in the win, which lifted N.C. State to the No. 14 ranking and the top of the ACC standings.
PHOTOPhotograph by John W. McDonough
It's Showtime! Like much of America, new Laker Steve Nash is finding this year's star-crossed team a little hard to watch. He and (from left) Dwight Howard, injured big man Jordan Hill, Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant fell 116--101 to the Thunder at the Staples Center last Friday—the tail end of a six-game losing streak—and haven't been above .500 since Nov. 20.
PHOTOPhotograph by Simon Bruty
Ice Matty? No Dice Matt Bryant's practice shot went wide right when the Seahawks tried to ice him, but after the clock started ticking, the Falcons' kicker nailed his 49-yard field goal attempt, capping Atlanta's wild 30--28 divisional-round victory over Seattle at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Watching the game, Cardinals kicker Jay Feely was asked on Twitter, "When is the best time to ice a kicker?" His response: "In college."
Before he became the premier postseason performer of his generation, the Patriots icon was a middling college quarterback who invited skepticism, even scorn, from fans and his coaches. That was all—and that was everything