In no particular order, these are my thoughts about all this Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin stuff:
1) Jonathan Martin apparently did not pan out very well as a football player for Miami. This obviously does not mean that he somehow deserves to be tormented and extorted by his teammates, but this would be the primary reason for that to be the case, as opposed to anything about his reserved temperament or elite education.
2) The idea that he should have responded to any purported bullying “like a man” by punching Richie Incognito in the teeth is completely moronic. (Hi, Mike Ditka.) Are we really supposed to believe that he would have garnered more respect if he had thrown a punch and subsequently gotten the shit kicked out of him? Or, what if the violence escalated and a gun came into play?
3) Noting again that advocating violence is aggressively stupid, there are indeed ways to directly handle these situations “like a man”. None of us know what really went on behind the scenes, and this may have happened, but suppose that Martin pulled Incognito aside and said to him, “I don’t think that this is your intent, but the way that you treat me makes me feel like I am not a valued member of this team. We all want to protect the quarterback and win games. Knowing myself as only I do, the buttons that you are pushing are not going to have an optimal effect.”
This could have been a private, one-on-one interaction before also trying to enlist the support of sympathetic allies on the team (if there were any) in a respectful, but confident manner. Again: we have not heard one way or another whether Martin tried this or not. If he did, and it failed, then everything is even more troublesome.
4) It seems like extortion of exorbitant amounts of money is commonplace in the NFL. Dez Bryant had to pick up a $55,000 tab. Rich Gannon and Nate Jackson have talked about similar, but less egregious, occurrences. This practice obviously need to end, and this situation will probably be the Bountygate-like catalyst for that.
5) After everything that’s come out in the past week, I wouldn’t be too psyched to go to Vegas with Richie Incognito, either. It would probably be one of my least favorite things to do. He seems like the type of person who would spend 72 consecutive hours force feeding you jager bombs and cocaine, get you kicked out of multiple establishments, and coerce you into getting sleeves of regrettable tattoos.
6) The extent to which the Dolphins players have come out in favor of Richie Incognito, and therefore tacitly against Jonathan Martin, has been astounding. They haven’t even been bland or PC about it. They’re all in. This means that this situation is either something like Penn State where an entire micro-society is bonkers and has no perspective on right vs. wrong, or that perhaps there are still layers to this story yet to be explored.
7) As Tim Keown wrote, Richie Incognito’s characteristic brand of sociopathy is a valued commodity in NFL huddles. Just as Martin’s subpar play is probably the reason he was picked on, Incognito’s violent, uncaring tendencies are why his teammates want him with them in the trenches.
8) With this story and the health issues of John Fox and Gary Kubiak fresh in mind, working in the NFL in any capacity seems like it would be a wholly miserable existence. Why on Earth would anybody want this shit to be his career?
9) I have a much bigger problem with DUIs and domestic violence — from football players, as well as the general population — than anything specific that Incognito has been accused of so far with regards to Martin. Like, isn’t the fact that he allegedly rubbed his dick on a woman at a team golf outing, and the accusation that team officials did nothing about it, the single most concerning detail we’ve heard so far? It is very odd where we decide to focus our collective outrage.
10) The biggest blame in all of this lies institutionally with Dolphins leadership. Without taking more of your time hashing specifics, they were aware that Incognito behaved like a criminally rabid animal for a sustained period of time and took no corrective action because they needed his help to (not) win (that many) football games.
So that was fun! On to the picks:
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Ok, really this time:
Last Week: 6-7
This Week (so far): 0-1
Last Week: 5-8
This Week (so far): 0-1
Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-13)
Ryan: Tied with the Dolphins and Chargers, the Titans are just a half-game behind the Jets for the sixth-seed in the AFC. Jake Locker is 4-2 as a starter this season, and he ranks 11th in Total QBR — ahead of people like Tony Romo, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson. Considering that they really should have beaten Houston in Week 2, Tennessee is a little bit better than people realize.
Everybody is well-aware of how terrible the Jaguars are, but this line still doesn’t seem high enough to even consider picking them. Titans cover.
Asif: Vintage Chris Johnson second straight week, here we go. Titans cover.
Philadelphia @ Green Bay (-2.5)
Ryan: I had honestly forgotten how life-altering a particularly brutal football loss can be until Monday night. It is absurd how much of my personal happiness — and even self-esteem — is tied up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but being aware of that oddity doesn’t mean that it is something I can control. When he went down, no Seneca Wallace Uncle Rico dropback ever felt like it would go for positive yardage, and the defense wore down and started missing an abominable amount of tackles, my mood sunk like the Titanic. I had to take a two-hour nap in the middle of Tuesday afternoon because I had just no hope of functioning like a real human being.
I don’t think Seneca Wallace will be as bad this week — how could he be? — but I would genuinely and sincerely feel better about the team’s chances if Tim Tebow or Brett Favre were starting on Sunday. That barometer represents the ultimate vote of no-confidence in your quarterback, and it is one that Packers fans have been supremely spoiled in largely avoiding the past 20 years. (Obvious caveat: I’m talking about 2013 Brett Favre, not any previous incarnation.)
Clay Matthews should provide a jolt to the D, but it was alarming that they were gashed up and down the field by a McCown brother. As a whole, the unit ranks 28th in the NFL in takeaways — they simply must force more turnovers.
Vegas clearly thinks that Nick Foles’ explosion on Sunday was an aberration, and I’m inclined to agree, but have some real structural concerns about the Packers headed into this week. Eagles cover.
Asif: The Packers offense looked abysmal without Aaron Rodgers last week. Eagles cover.
Buffalo @ Pittsburgh (-3.5)
Ryan: We are getting to the point in the year when I irrationally get upset at the Red Zone Channel for showing drives from games like this one instead of keying in on more important ones like Bears-Lions. During the latter weeks of the season, they should focus on the best games even when teams have worse field position.
And I somehow just complained about one of the greater technological innovations of all-time. Like, when my Dad was my age SportsCenter was in its infancy — nevermind the ability to watch every game, get live highlights, and communicate with the rest of the world in real-time. We are so spoiled now.
Since I have to pick something, Bills cover, but who really knows.
Asif: Who cares? Bills cover.
Oakland @ NY Giants (-7)
Ryan: WTF happened to the Raiders last week? They had previously been 3-1 at home before allowing Nick Foles and the Eagles (who I really don’t think are any good) to accumulate 542 yards of total offense. The NFL continues to be so random and weird.
Selfishly, I really wish Giants had just remained dead and buried. The Packers travel there next week, presumably still without Aaron Rodgers, and if New York wins this game on Sunday and Dallas loses in New Orleans, the Giants would be just 1.5 games out of the playoff picture — with the chance to get within a game with the Cowboys on a bye next week.
Ugh. Giants cover, at the very least as an emotional hedge.
Asif: Suddenly, the playoffs don’t look completely out of reach for the Giants. Sweet. Giants cover.
St. Louis @ Indianapolis (-10)
Ryan: It’s odd given that he was the consensus no. 1 pick last year and has objectively outperformed expectations thus far in his career, but Andrew Luck is almost underrated. This year, the only quarterbacks that I’d want before him are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and a healthy Aaron Rodgers. (I could probably be talked into Colin Kaepernick, but it’d be close.) He’s been much better than Russell Wilson and RG3 have been this year.
The Rams are frisky, but I think they’re overmatched. Colts cover.
Asif: Not that it’s going to matter in this game, but have Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson ruined the chances of any Alabama running back getting drafted in the first three rounds for the next decade? When you’re getting outperformed by the likes of Donald Brown, it’s a pretty bad sign. Colts cover.
Ryan: No love for Eddie Lacy????
Seattle (-6.5) @ Atlanta
Ryan: The Seahawks are 8-1. Therefore, as far as the NFL goes, it’s a pretty good problem for them that they’ve looked pretty mediocre for the past six weeks — teams aren’t going to be perfectly-calibrated every week, and the best ones are able to eke out victories where they don’t have their “A” games.
Still, though, it’s a little bit worrisome that they haven’t been able to bury inferior opponents like the Bucs and Rams the past two weeks, and it sorta feels like their structural blocking issues are really going to come back to haunt them at some point. Atlanta covers.
Asif: Seattle is much less impressive on the road. Falcons cover.
Cincinnati (-1.5) @ Baltimore
Ryan: So pumped for plodding 2.5-yard runs and 47-yard field field goals. Baltimore is secretly terrible. Bengals cover.
Asif: Sorry, what just happened? I fell asleep… Baltimore covers.
Detroit (-2.5) @ Chicago
Ryan: I’m having trouble figuring out who to root for in this game from a Packers perspective, but am leaning towards the Bears. Green Bay plays at Chicago in Week 17, and it would be very poetic if the NFC North crown were on the line. But it’s not a clear-cut decision, and it’s a little bit nerve-wracking that the Packers will need to beat Philadelphia just to keep pace with the winner of this game when the division title seemed so probable just a week ago.
Not that Josh McCown was a liability the past 1.5 weeks, but Jay Cutler is back and starting for the Bears. My best guess is that their staunch defense and newly-discovered pass rush last week was an aberration, and I don’t know if they can keep up with Detroit in a shootout. Lions cover.
Asif: Let chaos reign. Lions cover.
Carolina @ San Francisco (-6)
Ryan: This is probably the best game this week. With four wins in a row (all against crappy teams), Carolina has slithered into playoff contention — they’d be in if the season ended today. I’m fascinated to see if they can hang with strong competition.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have been rolling ever since they were 1-2, Aldon Smith was drunk driving his car into a tree, and the sky was falling. Almost unfairly, they get Smith and Michael Crabtree back soon (if not now, then probably right after their bye).
If I had to pick a quarterback for the next five years, I genuinely do not know if I would pick Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, or Colin Kaepernick, but it would definitely be one of those three. San Francisco covers.
Asif: This has “reality check” written all over it for Carolina. San Francisco covers.
Houston @ Arizona (-2.5)
Ryan: Daylight Savings Time is the worst. They sucker us into thinking it’s awesome because we get that one hour of extra sleep, but then it just starts getting dark in the middle of the afternoon. It’s such an atrocious trade, and we’re conned into being largely OK with it.
Can’t bring myself to think about or research this game. Texans cover.
Asif: I know he looked decent last week, but let’s be real here, Case Keenum is not very good. With Arian Foster having strained every muscle below his shoulders and a sturdy Arizona defense, I’m going with the Cardinals.
Denver (-7) @ San Diego
Ryan: The Chargers’ playcalling at the end of regulation versus the Redskins last week was about as egregious as I’ve ever seen. They had first down within Washington’s 1 with two timeouts, and somehow threw the ball on both 2nd and 3rd down. One of those throws was perhaps the least inspiring fade route of all-time by the guy who used to be Antonio Gates. Theoretically these dumb occurrences even out for bettors over time, but it’s a well-established fact that we get burned by them like 93% of the time.
I’m done picking against Denver unless it’s cold outside. Broncos cover.
Asif: San Diego is a little bit underrated, but I think Denver is just a more competent team. Broncos cover.
Dallas @ New Orleans (-7)
Ryan: I don’t have such healthy dietary habits in the first place, but I really can’t help myself when dank food is right in front of me. Since I live in the puppies and strollers neighborhood of Chicago, I anticipated a lot of trick-or-treaters and bought a bunch of Halloween candy. But, it rained that night and a bunch of people stayed home (a lot of the kids are really little and therefore unaware of the injustice of having trick-or-treating preempted by the weather) and I ended up with enough leftovers that I’m still binge eating it a week later.
Normally, I don’t keep candy in the house. That way, whenever I get a craving, I have to walk three blocks to the convenience store to get it. And that would mean putting on pants, which can be quite the deterrent.
I am baffled that the Saints lost last week — they had no answer for the Jets’ pass rush. This game is going to be a track meet. New Orleans covers.
Asif: After a mild October, it’s starting to get cold in New York, and it’s making me miserable. I really wish there was a way to relocate this city to a place where I didn’t have to wear some sort of outer layer for 75% of the year. I realize that I could move to a warmer-weather city, but all the cities with nice weather are dung heaps like Miami, New Orleans, and San Diego. This is really frustrating to me. Speaking of southern dung heaps, nothing would delight me more than Dallas finding a way to miss the playoffs. I know you have it in you Cowboys. Saints cover.
Miami (-3) @ Tampa Bay
Ryan: With all the dumpster fire stories that have come out of these two franchises this season, I thank my lucky stars every day that I am a Packers fan. Miami covers.
Asif: Can we just cut our losses with the entire state of Florida? Name one good thing to come out of that swamp. You can’t. Miami covers, I guess.