Carolina's Super Bowl veteran Jake Delhomme (left) buried the Giants; Pittsburgh's Big Ben Roethlisberger--is this really only his second year?--calmly dispatched the Bengals; Washington's Mark Brunell, in his fifth postseason, did away with the Buccaneers; and the master, Tom Brady, was at it again in New England.
Isiah the Drafter
The Knicks were suddenly hot--3-0 in 2006!--thanks to president Isiah Thomas's 2005 draft picks: Scoring by Channing Frye (drafted eighth overall), a little rebounding by David Lee (30th) and a whole lotta energy from Nate Robinson (21st, acquired from Phoenix).
Former Longhorn Major Applewhite proved Vince Young isn't the only Texas QB headed for bigger things by snagging (at age 27!) the offensive coordinator's job at Rice. And golfer Stuart Appleby is in luxury-car heaven, after winning his third straight Mercedes Championship (yep, you get a car) in Hawaii.
Sean Taylor's Legs
The Redskins safety's wheels keep serving him well--he had seven tackles and returned a fumble 51 yards for a TD while playing less than three quarters (see NOT for why) in a win over Tampa.
New Kids on the Block
Think young Chris Simms felt frustrated after his two interceptions doomed Tampa Bay? Consider Giants neophyte Eli Manning (right) throwing three interceptions on just 18 attempts. ("I wish I had a reason why," he said later.) At least those guys got to play. Carson Palmer's postseason party lasted exactly two snaps in Cincinnati.
Isiah the Manager
Before their run Knicks were 7-21, with Thomas's acquisitions (Jerome James, Quentin Richardson, Maurice Taylor) bogging down the team. Knicks have cap-busting $120 million payroll and Thomas can't draft his way out: Though New York projects for a top three pick, he traded it away.
Been HOT so long they forgot what NOT felt like. Six days after Dallas's Marion Barber was ousted from playoff race, Tampa's Ronde Barber got bounced. Then Ronde saw twin Tiki get stuffed for 41 yards on 13 carries--a performance he compounded by dissing Giants boss Tom Coughlin. Said Tiki, "In some ways we were outcoached."
Sean Taylor's Mouth
Redskin is living down to expectorations. He was ejected in the third quarter for spitting in the face of Bucs back Michael Pittman. Last season Bengal T.J. Houshmandzadeh said he got loogied on by Taylor as well.
SI PLAYERS POLL
What sport would you want to play professionally if you weren't playing football?
Auto Racing 2%
[Based on a survey of 357 NFL players]
For an expanded version of the poll, go to SI.com/Players.
FAST FACTS: Hockey (six votes), soccer (five), and track and field (five) were the other sports to draw five votes or more.... Only one respondent said lacrosse.... More than 43% of wide receivers selected basketball, while 55% of kickers and punters picked golf.
JOHN IACONO (DELHOMME)
AL TIELEMANS (MANNING)
ANTHONY J. CAUSI/ICON SMI (THOMAS THE MANAGER)
TIM SHAFFER/REUTERS (TAYLOR MOUTH)
JULES FRAZIER/PHOTODISC GREEN/GETTY IMAGES (FOOTBALL PLAYER)
JOHN BIEVER (LEBRON JAMES)
ROBERT BECK (RACECAR)
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (TAYLOR LEGS)
JIM MCISSAC/GETTY IMAGES (THOMAS THE DRAFTER)