Cowboys? Too little too late. Dallas's real action is at American Airlines Center, where Dirk Nowitzki (right; 24.9 ppg) and the 16--4 Mavs had won nine in a row through Sunday and the 16-8-1 Stars, led by center Brad Richards (30 points thus far), had reeled off six straight wins to sit atop the NHL Pacific.
Notre Dame's women edged Stanford 1--0 for their third NCAA soccer title; the football team (7--5) was invited to play an old rival, Miami, in the Dec. 31 Sun Bowl; and Graeme McDowell (right) of Northen Ireland nipped Tiger Woods in the Chevron World Challenge.
Don't sleep on the 5--7 Browns, who've offed the Saints, Pats and, on Sunday, the Fins, whom they nipped 13--10 behind Jake Delhomme's (right) rare clean sheet (no INTs or fumbles; his first in 13 months). Up next, a chance to reach .500 against woeful Buffalo and Cincy.
Boston makes it look easy. The 16--4 Celts just won seven straight, the Bruins are 14-8-3 behind Tim Thomas (right) and his NHL-best 1.46 GAA, and the Sox stole Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego. The Pats? They'd won eight of nine before their MNF tilt with the Jets.
Who needs LeBron? Cleveland for one. The Cavs took a 28-point whuppin' from James's Heat last Thursday, then added to its embarrassment two nights later with a 34-point loss to the cellar-dwelling T-Wolves. Through Sunday, Cleveland was 7--13 and owner of the NBA's worst point differential (-8.1 per game).
Roger Burden, England's soccer chief, said what everyone else was thinking when Russia and Qatar were named 2018 and '22 World Cup hosts. Citing broken promises by FIFA's Cup voters, Burden pouted, "I am not prepared to deal with people I cannot trust." Then he quit.
The Lions and the Panthers? Go ahead, write 'em off. A loss to Chicago made it five straight for Detroit (2--10), who, if it doesn't win again in '10 will have just 44 victories this century. And Carolina (1--11) is a punch line again after allowing 31 straight points to Seattle in a loss.
After a 3--1 start, the Kings had lost 13 of 14 through Sunday and fallen to 28th in scoring (94.0 ppg)—all of which helps to explain their NBA-worst attendance. Also disappointing has been No. 5 draft pick DeMarcus Cousins, who said of his poor play, "I've been terrible."
SI PLAYERS NFL POLL
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT AN 18-GAME SEASON?
The long-talked-about addition of two regular-season games—which Colts president Bill Polian called "a fait accompli" in September—will be a major issue when the collective bargaining agreement comes up in the off-season. Commissioner Roger Goodell (right) and the majority of NFL owners support schedule expansion; Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward (left) joined the chorus of naysayers last week and suggested hypocrisy by asking, "If the league was so concerned about safety, why are [they] adding two more games?" ... The NFL last extended its season, from 14 to 16 games, in 1978.
Based on 279 NFL players who responded to SI's survey
KYLE TERADA/US PRESSWIRE (NOWITZKI)
MIKE NELSON/EPA/LANDOV (MCDOWELL)
MARC SEROTA/GETTY IMAGES (DELHOMME)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (THOMAS)
AI WIRE/VERN VERNA/LANDOV (GOODELL)
AL TIELEMANS (WARD)