The Denver Broncos, winners of five straight, are on their second-longest winning streak since 1998, when they won 13 in a row and were shooting for an undefeated season.
That streak came to an end at the hands of the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. Only five Broncos players remain from that team: Trevor Pryce, Matt Lepsis, Jason Elam, Dwayne Carswell and Keith Burns. Burns left for Tampa for a year and returned this season.
Following that 1998 loss, the Broncos also lost the next week in Miami. But they went on from there and won their second consecutive Super Bowl in John Elway's final season.
Still, the remaining players remember the game well.
"It was a painful one," Burns said. "We were flying high, coming off a Super Bowl win and having won 13 straight when we came into the Meadowlands and our luck ran out."
He recalled a nip-and-tuck game that ended with journeyman quarterback Kent Graham leading the Giants on a long drive with no timeouts left. New York won 20-16 on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Amani Toomer.
The Giants, too, are down to a handful of players from that game: Toomer, Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber and Shaun Williams.
"We won't ever forget it," Burns said. "We went on to win a second Super Bowl, but we would have liked to have gone undefeated."
Denver won six straight in 2000 en route to an 11-5 record.
Remembering Romo's Hit
Oakland Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins heard all week about Bill Romanowski's proclamation on CBS's "60 Minutes" that the blow he put on Collins, while the quarterback played for Carolina, was "the perfect hit."
Romanowski, released by Oakland in March 2004 after failing a physical, broke Collins's jaw in two places. Collins spit up blood as he left the field following the helmet-to-helmet hit by the linebacker in a preseason game in August 1997.
Romanowski, then with the Denver Broncos, was fined $20,000.
"I heard they showed me walking off the field and spitting up blood and all that kind of stuff," Collins says. "I'm sure he did feel that way, I mean, it was a good shot. It was the combination of the right time -- the timing of it was perfect -- the way my body was, the position I was in, he was coming free. There was just a lot of things that led to it. . . . It wasn't great for me. It wasn't a whole lot of fun.
"That's part of the game, I've always said that. People say, 'Was it cheap? Was it dirty?' Who knows? That's part of the game. Those things happen and while it was fun for him, it wasn't fun for me."
Romanowski was one of dozens of athletes who appeared before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), the nutritional supplements lab whose top officials pleaded guilty to providing steroids to sports stars.
In the interview, Romanowski described how BALCO founder Victor Conte supplied him with steroids and human growth hormone for a two-year period starting in 2001. Conte was sentenced to four months in prison and four months' home confinement Tuesday after negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
A Little Off the Top
Carson Palmer doesn't see the need to pay for a haircut. Neither does Troy Polamalu.
Beyond that similarity, the comparison gets a little hairy.
While he was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy as Southern California's quarterback, Palmer got into the habit of cutting his own hair. Polamalu was his roommate at USC, but wanted nothing to do with the scissors.
"He saw me cutting it a couple of times at the house, but he wouldn't let me touch [his]," Palmer recalled this week. "He wouldn't let anybody touch it."
Palmer was the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, while his cornerback buddy went to Pittsburgh 16th overall. Their hairstyles haven't changed -- Palmer's is short and neat, Polamalu's cascades out of the back of his helmet.
"Ever since I've known Troy, he's just let it go," Palmer said. "I like it, though. It's his own style. Troy's a very unique individual, and he's got his own style and his own ways. On top of that, he's an unbelievable football player."
The first time they met across the field in the NFL last year, Polamalu intercepted one of Palmer's passes and returned it 26 yards for a clinching touchdown, running over his former roommate to reach the end zone.
And no, Palmer didn't grab his hair.
Jarrett Payton's Future
Running back Travis Henry comes off his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy Monday. That means the Tennessee Titans have to decide whether to keep Jarrett Payton, son of the late Walter Payton, on the 53-man roster.
Payton has been a crowd favorite since being promoted from the practice squad Sept. 30. He made his NFL debut with four carries for 37 yards in a 31-10 loss to Indianapolis on Oct. 2, scored his first NFL touchdown on a five-yard run Oct. 9 in a 34-20 victory over Houston, and was two for 11 yards in last week's loss to Cincinnati.
But the Titans traded a third-round draft pick to Buffalo to acquire Henry as a complement to Chris Brown. They also drafted Damien Nash of Missouri.
Before wide receiver Drew Bennett needed surgery for a dislocated left thumb, wide receiver Andrae Thurman seemed to be the odd man out because rookie Adam "Pacman" Jones is close to taking back his job as the punt returner.
Now Payton could be at risk because the Titans will need to keep Thurman with Bennett expected to be out at least two weeks and possibly longer.