Shaking off memories of Christmas seasons' past—i.e., losing streaks in each of the past two years—and haunted by visions of a Dec. 29 meeting with the Pats, Brandon Jacobs (above) and his mates stomped the Bills on a cold-and-yucky Buffalo Sunday to clinch a playoff spot.
Attend this tale, folks: Cowboys back Marion Barber (he of the 110-yard pre-Christmas romp, left) and Bucs corner Ronde Barber (page 26) are division champs. And Sweeney Todd, that demon barber of Fleet Street, opened to bloody good reviews.
Sweet year for alpiner Lindsey Vonn, née two-time Olympian Lindsey Kildow (she married U.S. skier Thomas Vonn in September). After winning the downhill at St. Anton in Austria last Friday, Vonn took the combined on Saturday, moving to the top of the World Cup standings. What lies ahead? Skiing till March, a honeymoon in May.
Coach Ted Nolan's Son
Brandon Nolan, 24, made his NHL debut as a Hurricane, getting an assist. ("He was good," said coach Peter Laviolette.) And Brandon (right) may see his dad on New Year's Eve: Carolina hosts Ted's Isles that night.
Oakland got blown out by Jacksonville to fall to 4--11, displeasing end Warren Sapp, who got tossed after three unsportsmanlike conducts. Will the new year be better? Rookie QB JaMarcus Russell (above) threw three picks and, befitting the season, let the ball drop.
NFL Roy Williamses
The Cowboys' safety (right) got suspended a game for his horse-collar tackling. The Lions' receiver got IR'd for the season (knee). And their troubles look even worse beside their smooth-sailing NCAA namesake, whose Tar Heels are 11--0.
The great Ronaldinho was (gasp!) benched by Barcelona, while mighty Romario got a 120-day ban from his club Vasco da Gama after testing positive for a masking agent. He says it's from antibalding cream, but the damage is done. Said Vasco president Eurico Miranda, upset at the ban, "The decision dents Romario's career."
Coach Ted Nolan's Protégés
His Islanders aren't scoring (their 2.29 goals-scored average was 29th in the league through Sunday), and his beloved enforcer Chris Simon (SI, Oct. 29) got smacked with the longest suspension (30 games) in NHL history.
SI PLAYERS NFL POLL
Which kicker would you most want to try a game-winning kick for your team?
Adam Vinatieri, Colts 83%
Ryan Longwell, Vikings 3%
David Akers, Eagles 2%
John Kasay, Panthers 2%
Players could not vote for a kicker on their team.... Vinatieri, who turns 35 on Dec. 28, is the only kicker to win four Super Bowls, three with New England and, last season, with the Colts.... His last-second field goals won Super Bowl XXXVI (from 48 yards) and Super Bowl XXXVIII (41 yards) for the Pats (right).... Vinatieri's 49 points in last year's playoffs are an NFL single-season record.
[Based on a survey of 278 NFL players] • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.
DEREK GEE/AP (JACOBS)
BEN MUNN/CAL SPORT MEDIA (RUSSELL)
TOM DIPACE (WILLIAMS)
SCOTT AUDETTE/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (NOLAN)
BOB DONNON/US PRESSWIRE (BARBER)
JOHN BIEVER (COLTS VINATIERI)
MORRY GASH/AP (PATS VINATIERI)