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September 6, 2004 Table Of Contents

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NFL Preview 2004

4 ARIZONA CARDINALS

Dennis Green is in a hurry to win, but with an untested quarterback and a 35-year-old running back, progress will be slower than he expects

By Michael Silver

Will they still be smiling in January?

Tough-as-nails Donovan McNabb finally has a big-play receiver, but the Eagles' title hopes could rest on whether he can keep Terrell Owens happy

By Peter King

Tough Guys

Every team wants them, and every coach cherishes the ones he's got. They deliver hits that change a game's momentum and withstand blows that keep drives alive. In the following pages, behold the NFL's toughest.

HOW IS HE SO GOOD ON A TEAM SO BAD?

Tough-minded LADAINIAN TOMLINSON is the league's highest-paid running back, but he doesn't get his props because he plays for the woeful Chargers

By Michael Silver

DID I REALLY SAY WHAT I JUST SAID?

Tough-talking MATT HASSELBECK may be best known for a bold prediction gone awry, but he has also emerged as one of the game's top quarterbacks

By Josh Elliott

Dr. Z's All-Tough Team

When it comes to players with grit, here's the lineup Paul Zimmerman wants on his side--22 lunch-pailers who play hurt and never take a down off. You won't find situational pass rushers here or wide receivers who won't block or cornerbacks who don't hit. Just a bunch of guys taking pride in doing the dirty work

By Paul Zimmerman

Scouting Reports

1 New England Patriots

The Super Bowl champs aren't standing pat--they've added youngsters to an aging defense and a marquee running back to the mix on offense

By Paul Zimmerman

2 New York Jets

The defense has a whole new look, with an aggressive coordinator and a handful of rookies who are being counted on to contribute immediately

By Paul Zimmerman

3 Buffalo Bills

New coach Mike Mularkey has some tricks up his sleeve for an offense that has a couple of new weapons, but first he has to straighten out the line

By Paul Zimmerman

4 Miami Dolphins

A shocking retirement and a season-ending injury turn a perennial playoff contender into an also-ran with more questions than answers

By Paul Zimmerman

1 Baltimore Ravens

The education of quarterback Kyle Boller continues, with a run at another Super Bowl hinging on whether he can master the position

By Chris Ballard

2 Cincinnati Bengals

As running back Rudi Johnson and quarterback Carson Palmer move front and center, hopes are high for ending a 14-year playoff drought

By Chris Ballard

3 Pittsburgh Steelers

The architect of the old Blitzburgh defense returns to energize a faltering unit, but lacking playmakers the team will struggle to make the playoffs

By Chris Ballard

4 Cleveland Browns

Getting released by the 49ers could turn out to be the best thing for Jeff Garcia and his new team, which needed a leader at quarterback

1 Tennessee Titans

A pair of franchise cornerstones are gone, but nobody's pushing the panic button--not with league co-MVP Steve McNair running the show

By Josh Elliott

2 Indianapolis Colts

There's a youth movement afoot in the secondary as Tony Dungy tinkers with a unit that learned a lesson from the Patriots last year

By Josh Elliott

3 Jacksonville Jaguars

Comfortable as a drop-back passer and slimmed down, Byron Leftwich looks to pick up where he left off last year for this dark-horse contender

By Josh Elliott

4 Houston Texans

Tired of being labeled with the E word, the newest franchise only wants to see expansion in the win column--and a revamped defense is the key

By Josh Elliott

1 Kansas City Chiefs

The old defensive coordinator has been succeeded by the old head coach, but will that be enough to fix a unit that was embarrassing a year ago?

By Peter King

2 Denver Broncos

One way or another the Trade, like the Drive, will go down in team history. The onus is on Champ Bailey to make it a happy memory

By Peter King

3 Oakland Raiders

In a major renovation project, the dilapidated defense has been turned over to a former Pats assistant and a crew of veteran free-agent pickups

By Peter King

4 San Diego Chargers

Who knows what the future holds for this team? Until a pass rusher is found and a quarterback is developed, there's no end in sight to the losing

By Peter King

1 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Two understudies move into starting roles in the secondary, having to cover for departed veterans in the glare of a run at the Super Bowl

By Jeffri Chadiha

2 WASHINGTON REDSKINS

With the return of Joe Gibbs and the trade for an elite running back, the franchise looks to its former offense to recapture its former glory

By Jeffri Chadiha

3 NEW YORK GIANTS

A couple of stopgap veterans and a rookie are called on to toughen up and add depth to a line that was more offensive than effective last season

By Jeffri Chadiha

4 DALLAS COWBOYS

Vinny Testaverde throwing to Keyshawn Johnson? Sounds like 1998 in N.Y., but it's 2004 in Big D as some old Jets try to rev up a sluggish offense

By Jeffri Chadiha

1 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

With the addition of a hard-hitting corner, the secondary takes the lead in trying to turn a weak defense that blew a playoff berth into a strength

By Michael Silver

2 GREEN BAY PACKERS

With time running out on the league's best quarterback-running back combo, it may be now or never for Brett Favre, Ahman Green & Co.

By Peter King

3 DETROIT LIONS

Quarterback Joey Harrington has been surrounded with talented, young skill players, but it will be at least a year before this team makes a jump

By Peter King

4 CHICAGO BEARS

New coach Lovie Smith delivers an aggressive, opportunistic defensive scheme that should make star linebacker Brian Urlacher even better

By Michael Silver

1 CAROLINA PANTHERS

A team that thrives on its great chemistry gets a big boost when its catalyst--and best linebacker--returns after beating Hodgkin's

By Jeffri Chadiha

2 ATLANTA FALCONS

After a frustrating first season with the team, Peerless Price welcomes the return to health of Michael Vick and a new pass-happy offense

By Jeffri Chadiha

3 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

After three seasons of underachieving, the players say they've buckled down and eliminated the distractions that kept them out of the playoffs

By Josh Elliott

4 Tampa Bay Bucs

Coach Jon Gruden got rid of some old headaches but may have created a few more by putting together an offense that won't get better with age

By Josh Elliott

1 Seattle Seahawks

The pieces are in place for a title run, but there's a catch: A talented trio of wide receivers can't let the opportunity slip through their fingers

By Michael Silver

2 ST. LOUIS RAMS

He has a swagger that comes with the starting quarterback job and a huge new contract. But can Marc Bulger get the offense cranked up again?

By M.S.

3 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

The price of cost-cutting: After shedding six offensive starters, the former powerhouse hangs its hopes on a still-developing defense

By Michael Silver

PVR

PLAYER VALUE RANKING

Air and Space

Fatter, Blanker, Cleaner

By Steve Rushin

2004 Olympics

Sticks and Groans

The vaunted 4x100 relay teams both came up short for the first time in Olympic history, but the U.S. still reached the top of the medal heap

By Tim Layden

Hitting While We're Down

U.S. boxing is bruised, but Andre Ward punched a golden ticket

By Richard Hoffer

Winners and Losers

By Brian Cazeneuve

Dope Sheet

By Don Yaeger

Dawn of an Era

Saving her best for last, Dawn Staley showed the U.S. women, on and off the court, the way to a third straight gold

By Kelli Anderson

Third World

There's more to U.S. men's basketball's bronze medal finish than a better class of opponents. But will changes be made?

By Jack McCallum

Another Streak Begins

Cael Sanderson added Olympic gold to his remarkable résumé

By Michael Farber

A Golden Tribute

By Brian Cazeneuve

Finally, Finishing the Job

By E.M. Swift

GOLDEN OLDIES

In a fitting tribute to Mia Hamm and four other veterans, the U.S. women's soccer team showed its pluck with an overtime rally

By Grant Wahl

What's Next?

Pack Your Baguettes

The Race Just Started

Running ahead of schedule, China made a move on the Olympic powers in Athens. As host in 2008, it expects to dominate

By S.L. Price

BASEBALL

YEAH, IT'S THE BRAVES AGAIN

Everybody said Atlanta's run was over, at long last. But look who's back in control of the National League East

By Albert Chen

MOUND MAKEOVERS

Thanks to Leo Mazzone, the Braves' Jaret Wright has made a remarkable turnaround. Here are four other former underachievers enjoying career years thanks to some magic from their pitching coaches

By Daniel G. Habib

The Life of Reilly

Mind over Medal

By Rick Reilly

Departments

Minority Rule?

Move over, Venus and Serena. The next generation of African-American stars is surging through the junior ranks

By JON WERTHEIM

Leading Off

Face Facts

Letters

The Science of the Brief Encounter

Kobe Bryant's sexual-assault trial is sure to have its He-Said-She-Said moments. But the story told by blood stains, body fluids and other physical evidence may decide his fate

By Jeff Benedict

THE SHOW

By Bill Scheft

GO FIGURE

FOR THE RECORD

Isle of Might

THE WEEK AHEAD

WHAT TO WATCH AND WATCH FOR

By Julia MorrILL

UNDER REVIEW

By Nancy Ramsey

SPORTS BEAT

TOM VERDUCCI'S MAILBAG

By Tom Verducci

THE POLL POSITION

TRUTH + RUMORS

Faces in the Crowd