NOTE: This has been updated since its original publication.
The NFL hits Week 10 and the big story remains Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin - and it's gotten bigger because it's gotten a lot more complex. For the picture from multiple stories emerging is radically different from the narrative we've been getting. Noticeably the story that Incognito was extorting Martin (specifically for a trip to Las Vegas) and perhaps one other player is turning out not to be true (see former player Matt Chatham and his analysis here).
And the common thread in the varied stories - shown in teammates of Incognito all but siding with him on the issue of his racial taunts - is that Jonathan Martin is less a victim than a soft, self-important little twat. Certainly the way Martin has handled the whole issue (he's now lawyering up, a giveaway of guilt rather than innocence) and the way he has played portray him as someone who indeed is soft and unreliable (and apparently makes excuses for his poor play) as a player or teammate (the term "bust" as a player I'm now hearing), someone who has no right to be in an NFL locker room or on an NFL offensive line.
The story has surfaced that Dolphins coaches told Incognito that Martin was soft, showed no work ethic or toughness, and he needed to be toughened up. Now bullying and extortion are illegitimate (not to mention illegal), but the story has somehow transmuted into a broader debate about "the culture in the locker room," when it ought to be only about Incognito and Martin. The ethic about toughening up teammates is manifestly a good one; bullying and extortion certainly are not positive ethics and should be purged from locker rooms.
Richie Incognito has been controversial and may indeed be a thug, but Jonathan Martin more and more emerges as someone who does not warrant that much sympathy - if not outright the problem.
As for picking games -
BYES: - New England, NY Jets, Cleveland, Kansas City
Vikings over Redskins - of all the teams in the league the Vikings have played the best without much to show for it, blowing multiple winnable games. The Skins are decent but not much more and they don't look strong enough to win many road games.
Bills over Steelers
- Pittsburgh can play well but the Steelers have shown no ability to string together anything for success. Buffalo is not ready for prime time and won't be for awhile, but they look better than the moribund Steelers.
Bengals over Ravens
- Cincinnati has hit on a groove, though they got sidetracked in Miami and may not be stout enough to win a playoff game. The Ravens have fallen apart in a rebuilding year.
Lions over Bears
- The Bears are awful on defense and their quarterbacking is mediocre at best. Detroit has shown elite competitiveness with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush finally has the fit he's needed.
Eagles over Packers
- Aaron Rodgers is out perhaps for the year and Seneca Wallace is roadkill for an Eagles team needing all the momentum it can find.
Colts over Rams - The Rams have regressed from last year and the Colts have improved somewhat.
Titans over Jaguars - This is the kind of roadkill game the Titans can use to get more out of their squad; the Titans can make a run to the playoffs and it needs to start here.
NY Giants over Raiders - Neither team is any good; take the home team.
Seahawks over Falcons - The Seahawks are vulnerable up the middle and can be manhandled at the line of scrimmage, but the Falcons have collapsed in front of us and they now need to start questioning Matt Ryan, who looks to be regressing.
Panthers over 49ers - The Niners are tough, but historically struggle against the Panthers. Cam Newton's maturity issues of last year appear gone and the Panthers can challenge New Orleans for the NFC South.
Chargers over Broncos - This should be a shootout; the Chargers have been uneven but the Broncos have to put up with a mediocre head coach in Jack Del Rio and a defense that can't hang with anyone, plus San Diego still smarts over three straight losses to Denver.
Texans over Cardinals - While the Cards have been able to win despite themselves, Houston comes in with a very promising new quarterback in Case Keenum, who was superb despite Houston blowing a big lead to Indianapolis.
Saints over Cowboys - Despite losing to the NY Jets, the Saints are still an elite team, and the Cowboys aren't close to elite.
Dolphins over Buccaneers - Even with the locker room brouhaha, the Dolphins managed to win against Cincinnati and they get a much weaker opponent that blew a winnable game against the Seahawks.
And so it goes for Week 10.