NFC Is About to Get Real

The Lions and Panthers are making strong pushes for the playoffs, just as we all predicted in August. (Right?) But first things first: All of the NFC’s top teams are on the brink of what should be a wild final seven weeks

One non-Incognito point to ponder this morning, prompted by non-stat-geek Mike Florio and based on 2013 NFL history: If Indianapolis is 20 points better than San Francisco, and San Francisco 24 points better than St. Louis, and Indianapolis plays St. Louis, then Indianapolis obviously should beat St. Louis by 44.

St. Louis beat Indianapolis by 30 Sunday, which apparently was any given Sunday.

On the field, I’d say Week 10 in the NFL belonged to the 1995 expansionists. Jacksonville won its first game of the season, while Carolina won its fifth in a row, a there-are-no-ugly-wins win at San Francisco that left many in Ninerdom wondering, “All right. Who kidnapped Colin Kaepernick, and what have you done with him?” I’ll give you Gus Bradley, Luke Kuechly and Steve Smith, and lots of playoff speculation fodder, soon.

But we have to start with the Incognito in the room. A Beverly Wilshire Hotel room, where Richie Incognito was interviewed by FOX’s Jay Glazer as part of his football and human-being rehab tour. Incognito has been suspended by the Dolphins for his role in the bullying and harassment of his offensive linemate, Jonathan Martin.

Most of what Incognito told Glazer was predictable: I am not a racist, I had no idea I was offending Jonathan Martin, he gave the rough stuff back to me. He said Martin’s departure from the team stunned him. “I never saw it,” he said. “I never saw it coming.” But the three most interesting parts of the interview were tangential to it.

1. To prove his point about their close friendship, Incognito showed Glazer what Glazer said were 1,142 text messages the two men had exchanged in the 19 months they’ve known each other. One from Martin to Incognito, sent last week after Martin bolted from the team, went this way: “It’s insane bro but just know I don’t blame you guys at all. It’s just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little.” This, a source who knows Martin told me, was a continuation of how Martin continued to respond to a man he felt was his tormenter. He didn’t want to upset Incognito, and sending the it’s-not-your-fault text would avoid making the leader of his position group angry. And I’d bet that’s how Martin will explain the string of friendly texts and exchanges when he’s interviewed by league investigator Ted Wells Wednesday.

cornwell-tweet2. Glazer said Incognito wouldn’t answer whether Miami coaches ordered him or anyone on the team to “toughen up” Martin because he was playing soft. By not answering, of course, Incognito said plenty.

3. To prove Martin was an equal participant in the bawdy exchanges, Incognito told Glazer that Martin sent him a text saying, “I will murder your whole effing family.” That’s not true, according to a tweet from Martin’s lawyer, David Cornwell. The tweet showed an internet meme of a woman and an odd-looking dog with the caption, “I will murder your whole f—— family” (the picture from the text is to the right, though we’ve censored the language). Hardly the same thing as sending a text with those words. But this is typical of this entire story: Nothing is ever exactly as it seems.

What is real? What is exaggeration? Did Incognito torment Martin to the point of near-mental breakdown? That’s up to Ted Wells to determine. Martin and Incognito need to tell the whole truth when they meet with him.

* * *

The Lions are getting dominant play from their front four, while the Panthers' linebacking corps has been perhaps the league's best. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images :: Ben Margot/AP)
The Lions are getting dominant play from their front four, while the Panthers’ linebacking corps has been perhaps the league’s best. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images :: Ben Margot/AP)

The Lions can’t really win a first-round bye. Can they?

Divining the last seven weeks of the NFC pennant race, starting with the round-robin tournament that will determine whether Seattle can hang on to home-field advantage:

Whoever did the schedule last spring was smart. Five teams have six or more wins in the NFC this morning: Seattle (9-1), New Orleans (7-2), San Francisco (6-3), Detroit (6-3), Carolina (6-3). Until Carolina began to sprint to the finish, we all thought Seattle, San Francisco and New Orleans, in some order, were the cream of the conference. Let’s see how the Seahawks, Niners and Saints will try to beat the crap out of one another in the next 28 days:

Nov. 17: San Francisco at New Orleans.
Dec. 2 (Monday): New Orleans at Seattle.
Dec. 8: Seattle at San Francisco.

Carolina isn’t home free … yet. The Panthers play New England next Monday night at home. They also have a tough three-game stretch in 15 December days: at New Orleans, Jets at home, Saints at home. The best sign for the Panthers is a 6-2 conference record. That’s more NFC wins than any other team in the conference except Seattle, which also has six.

Detroit has the most favorable schedule down the stretch. As of this morning, the Lions are a game back of the Saints for the second first-round bye, and while the Saints have four games left against teams at least two games over .500, Detroit has none. Check out the remaining Lions slate.

Nov. 17: At 3-6 Pittsburgh.
Nov. 24: 0-8 Tampa Bay at Ford Field.
Nov. 28: The 5-4 Packers, with Aaron Rodgers’ status very much in doubt 23 days after breaking his collarbone.
Dec. 8: At 5-4 Philadelphia.
Dec. 16: 4-5 Baltimore at Ford Field.
Dec. 22: The 3-6 Giants at Ford Field.
Dec. 29: At 2-7 Minnesota.

It’s always dangerous to draw conclusions about the playoffs with seven games left (particularly in a league in which the Rams beat the Colts by 30), but if you’re a Lions’ fan, you have to be very optimistic this morning. Not only do you have a one-game lead in your division and a sweep of the Bears this year, but also your schedule looks like it was drawn up by the ghost of Bobby Layne.

.

***

Carolina is relevant … finally.

Good story out of Carolina’s 10-9 upset of the Niners Sunday at Candlestick Park, about the Panthers finally doing something to get America to notice them.

I was more impressed by their defense, frankly. Entering Sunday’s game, the 49ers were a hot team, averaging 27 points and 343 yards per game. But Carolina held San Francisco to three first-half field goals and just 151 yards for the game. In the last 35 minutes the Niners had the ball seven times. Never scored. The results of the drives: end of half, punt, lost fumble, punt, punt, punt, interception.

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In the second half, six drives netted 45 yards. This was no fluky win. The Panthers used the smothering presence of outside rushers Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy to neutralize Colin Kaepernick, who was sacked six times. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards shut off the run for much of the day. And Carolina left San Francisco with the biggest win of the Ron Rivera Era—and the Panthers’ fifth straight victory.

“We came in needing to stop the run, obviously,’’ Kuechly told me afterward. “But after that, we had to know where 85 and 81 [Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin] were on every play. And we had to be sure we kept the option offense under control. We couldn’t let Kaepernick get outside.”

Frank Gore did do some damage, rushing 16 times for 83 yards. But Davis and Boldin caught four balls for 25 yards. And Kaepernick had a brutal day: 46 net passing yards, 16 rushing yards.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” said Kuechly. “There’s no doubt in our minds we can play with these teams, and we proved it today.”

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511 comments
rubinpj
rubinpj

Peter - I saw this and thought of you


It came to me

that every time

I lose a dog

they take a piece 

of my heart with them,

and every new dog 

who comes into my life

gifts me with a piece

of their heart.

If I live long enough

all the components

of my heart

will be dog, and

I will become 

as generous and 

loving as they are.

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

The story about his dog made me cry like a baby.  I fear the day that my dogs have to go.  :(

I'll never understand cat people...  there's nothing like the unconditional love from a dog.

BoiseBus41
BoiseBus41

I really don't know how anyone could make it through page 3 with a dry eye. I can't imagine waking up in the morning and not seeing my dog, Alabama, laying on his pillow next to mine. 

kmb4605
kmb4605

After I read about Bailey, I called my 12 year old Doberman Pinscher, gave her a hug, fed her 1/2 my steak, and let her sleep in the bed "Wife wasn't happy" I'll probably need a strait jacket when the time comes for my faithful loving and very spoiled companion ! 

UlisseP
UlisseP

“Triple grande hazelnut macchiato”?? Good grief, man -- please stop calling that section "Coffeenerdness", because no coffee nerd with self-respect would want to get caught drinking that abomination. Unless they were 14-year-old cheerleaders, that is.

DOriginalDonald
DOriginalDonald

Week 10 proves the old mantra On Any Given Sunday...........

ianlinross
ianlinross

Favorable schedule, terrific front four, only healthy and decent QB in the division; yeah, the Lions blow this.

JesseF
JesseF

Peter, I am incredibly sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing and I wish you and your family the best. And you're absolutely right, it's the best trade you've ever made! Jesse

JohnnyNacho
JohnnyNacho

Do you hear that whistle?  That yellow flag for unsportsmanlike penalty?  Yeah, me too....it's that same sound of Detroit imploding again.

KevinMoss
KevinMoss

Maybe you should have spent less time cheerleading for Shannon Sharpe and more time listening to Brandon Marshall's comments on the topic of the N-word....

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

WHY are you or anybody else stunned by Atlanta's downfall? This was the problem I had with it---Rich McKay (the Bucs architect for the glory years) builds a decent team, & get kicked upstairs for the team not being good enough. A Belichick acolyte comes over (Dimitroff) (those Belichick acolytes do GREAT outside Bill /sarcasm), keeps building, & then Snead & Caldwell get hired off all the Falcons' mediocre playoff success for the Rams & the Jaguars, respectively (how's that going?). Anybody with eyes could see Matt Ryan is the definition of high-end mediocre, Julio Jones is a monster although inconsistent, & they had a middling defense, an OK offensive line, & an 83 year old running back. I just never got the Great Atlanta Success Story everybody was trying to sell me. & hiring Mike Smith? Yeeesh.

Jenn1
Jenn1

We put our dog to sleep three years ago. She was 17 but  it still feels like a piece of my heart was taken from me. I truly believe everyone who can should have a pet. I'm not saying the pain isn't unbelievable when they die; I'm just saying it's worth it.

Rest in Peace Bailey - go run the fields of Heaven.

MikeReiner
MikeReiner

Thank you Mr.King for MMQB I look forward to it every week! But mostly Thank You for sharing your "Bailey" story with us! Its amazing how much a part of the family a dog can be! I am very sorry for your loss and hope you and your wife get a new Lab to keep you company for the next 13 or 14 years!

Anon Omus
Anon Omus

Oh so it's okay to threaten to kill someone if you put it on a meme but you should be executed if you do the same thing in an obvious joking voice mail.  It's funny how far the media will go to defend Martin.  

kcjohn17
kcjohn17

Hey Peter, before praising Shannon Sharpe over his comments, maybe we should hear a similar rant from him around domestic violence??

RobertGraham
RobertGraham

Darn you, Peter.  With the Bailey story in the middle of MMQB, you're making it darn hard to read the rest of your column!  I'm all tears, here!


Today, when I take my 5 year old Lab for a run in the dog park, I'll make sure he does a couple of laps in Bailey's memory.


Thanks for writing about being a human being as part of your football column. RIP Bailey King. 

AndrewLynch
AndrewLynch

Thanks for giving the Eagles and Nick Foles a modicum of respect.  It's very rare on this site and on ESPN.

VIPOD
VIPOD

We lost are 15 year old Brittany Spaniel, Lacey in 2006 (really, the first gift my wife and I gave each other before we got married). Well, Lacey gave back 1Million fold. Lacey was a frisbee catching dog, from a standing position she would leap 5-6ft in the air. Knowing her health was deteriorating we brought in Maya (GoldenDoodle) in 2005. I'm a firm believer that dogs heal, Lacey brought my wife and I together when we hit a rough spot in the marriage,and Maya literally nursed my wife to health (the mental kind) when she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008.

Thanks for charing Peter & R.I.P. Bailey 

norm314
norm314

Why would Detroit want a cancer like Incognito? Is he supposed to be better than Rob Sims or rookie of the week nominee Larry Warford?

CheezFM
CheezFM

I don't mean to distract from the bulk of the comments which center on Incognito/Martin and Peter's dog, but I just gotta ask:

How did Peter King get this gig?  This guy represents the absolute worst of today's media. 

He is lazy--just look at his reporting of this Incognito/Marin affair. Nothing but tweets and knee-jerk, unfalsifiable, fact-free commentary. He provides no journalistic function whatsoever. He substituted opinion spewing for reporting a long time ago. And it's this way week in and week out.

He is biased. Why do we all know of Peter's political leanings for a football column that most of us read to get away from all the political B.S.? Because the substance of his work is so paltry, he has to resort to appealing to his audience via his politics.

He's narcissist. He thinks we actually want to read about his opinions on gun control, healthcare, as well as status updates on his dog. [Most people here love dogs and know the pain of losing one. But this is supposed to be a column about football. If you want the catharsis of writing about your dog, then do so with your "friends" on Facebook. That's the place for it.] 

He is T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E.   He's a former beat writer who, aspires to be Mike Lupica. [It really has gotten that bad for Peter.] 

The sad fact is this: VERY FEW people read this column because of Peter King. If Peter King left SI for some Wordpress blog, 12 people would follow him. And this stupid MMQB.Si.WTF.COM?!?!   What was wrong with simple SI.com?

Sitcoms "Jump the Shark". Sports columnists "Jump their Dead Dogs". 

RickHendrick
RickHendrick

There's no tears like dog tears. (It will make you feel better if you sing it like Ethel Merman.)


rikerisle
rikerisle

Getting tired of hearing the outrage from peter King on incognito's utterance of whatever words were said.  The 'N' word has been minimized by blacks for decades.  The black players in the room didn't object to Incognito's utterance of the word (with the possible exception of martin), so peter and shannon sharpe should shut their self-righteous mouths.  On one other notes, peter, like other white 'journalists', minimizes a black man's death texts by saying he just 'forwarded an internet meme'.  Sorry there king, but if incognito forwarded a meme of a noose to a black man there would be outrage over the racist tweet.  You can't have it both ways.

YourJudgeandJury
YourJudgeandJury

Two and a half years ago, I had to put down my German Shepherd, Sasha, who was with us for 12 years.  It did tear me apart.  I thought my wife was going to commit me.  A month or so later I was on my Harley riding up Rt. 1 north of St. Augustine and I see a German Shepherd breeding/boarding place (can I say I.C.N.D.F.?).  This is where we found Hera.  She has graced my life for 2-1/2 years now and is laying down next to me as I type. A new puppy cannot take the place of the one that just left but pup can help heal as he/she builds a place in your heart.  I wouldn't have traded any of my German Shepherds for a 6 pack of beer and a bucket of wings (I'm from Buffalo so those items are important).  Football is just a game, your puppy is your heart and soul. 

OttawaWendy
OttawaWendy

I cried when I read you telling Bailey to play with Woody.  I can't be the only one.  All dog lovers who have had to say goodbye know what you feel.

SouperMeister
SouperMeister

Peter - you have my deepest sympathy for losing Bailey. I lost Chelsea, my 16 year old Golden Retriever, in September. I've never agreed more with anything in this column than how much dogs add to our lives. Goldens especially live to please their family, and are the most gentle, loving creatures. I'm not ready yet, but I will surely get another Golden, and I hope you do too.

DickMcIntyre
DickMcIntyre

Peter - very sorry to hear about Bailey.  We lost our 13 year old soft coated wheaten Blarney a year ago last month - she's now my avatar.

Losing a canine family member hurts as much as losing a human one.

adze
adze

Its not up to you to get angry over the N- word.  As a matter of fact it's demeaning to be told to get angrier about it from a white guy.  As a black man, I will decide who can and cannot say that to me or around me, and certainly have no use for your opinion on the matter.  J. Martin doesn't need you to defend him and racism as far as I can tell, was not the real issue here.  Find something else to get angry about.

teacher_rob
teacher_rob

My two boys, Rusty and Ranger are lab mixes (one with pointer, the other with Jack Russel terrier) and not yet three. Besides our daily games of tug-o-war and fetch, we have our nightly walks. I told my wife, that while I know it is a decade plus away, I might not be able to have another dog after these two. Thanks for sharing your pain and grief and for reminding me, the pain I dread and fear is a small price for what they have given me and will give me. I've read you religiously for years, never more moved than when reading about Bailey.

Thank you!

John331
John331

Peter,

Thank you for sharing your story about Bailey, though it brought back my own grief from similar experiences with my own dogs.  In my view, dogs like Bailey (and mine) give us much more than they receive.

WendyJFluga28
WendyJFluga28

Tears for Bailey, Peter. Sending my best personal regards for your loss. P.S. I swore I would never read your column again when you said, "I want to be Chris Matthews when I grow up."  Lowlight of your career. Alas, I could not stay away. You are my favorite sportswriter, and always will be. Cheers. xxW

Gs1
Gs1

You know Pete enough of this sh*t! Stop being a hypocrite and get off your soap box. If black players allowed Incognito to use the N* word it's because THEY give the same type of language back and felt comfortable with it. Do you think that a team, who's ranks are made up by an overwhelming majority of black players, are going to put up with one man being a racist, casually throwing around the N-word at will? I don't care how big & bad Incognito is, he can't fight a whole team. Jonathan Martin needed to throw someone under the bus and Incognito's checkered past made him the perfect target. His lawyers are smart enough to tell him who to blame.

Karen Schrade
Karen Schrade

Peter, my condolences on Bailey. So painful to lose a member of the family but to never feel a dog's love must be worse. Godspeed Bailey.

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

@CheezFM FEEL FREE TO STOP READING HIM.


Every week there are idiots that read King's column and then complain about how bad it always is.... STOP READING!

ianlinross
ianlinross

@CheezFM Evidently, you're not familiar with the full body of Peter King's work. Go read Deadspin or Bleacher Report.

Terry
Terry

@CheezFM 

Very mean spirited and not at all warranted.

TZT
TZT

@CheezFM You are so off base with this.  Oh well.

EP1
EP1

@CheezFM yeah... because only 12 people besides you have commented on this one article... so few people read his column that he has his own team and website... troll...

jojomogir
jojomogir

@CheezFM He is a columnist, not a reporter.  If you don't understand the difference, then you've got a little homework to do.

Dark
Dark

@rikerisle And you don't get to tell black people how offended they should or shouldn't be.  Sometimes white people should just shut up and listen.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@rikerisle This generation of blacks sell white people music laced with the word they are supposed to be offended by. It's pretty common to see young white kids singing along to rap and chanting the n-word as part of the lyrics. Funny thing is that whites have been so trained to be offended and scared of the n-word that I'd bet they are more offended by the word than blacks today. This seems like a generational phenomenon, and Shannon is simply an example of that. 50 years from now the word will probably be a shoulder shrug, if it even exists by then - as I'm sure rap and hip hop will be long gone by then too...

blynder
blynder

@adze 

And I as a black man, think we need to find more room for more voices on this issue.  Talking about it is going to get us through this.  AND I as a black man don't know what was going on in that Miami locker room and would be very quick to judge a situation I'm not a part of.  I know what racism is; not just from personal experience but from theory and data and study.  

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@Gs1 Hey Shannon - today's younger black generation clearly don't hold the same regard for the n-word that you do. And you can't make them. Good on the current generation for realizing that a word only has power over you if you let it.

CheezFM
CheezFM

@jojomogir @CheezFM Learn how to read before advising others to do more homework. I didn't write "reporter". I said he stopped providing any "journalistic function" with regards to his column. There's a difference between lazy opinion spewing and researched commentary distilled through a weekly column.    

rikerisle
rikerisle

@blynder you weren't in the room, and theory, data, and study do not determine what is racist.  If the black players in the room say it wasn't racist then it wasn't, pure and simple, and you don't get more of a say just because you say you are black.

EP1
EP1

@Joebuckster @Gs1 First, if Incognito doesn't know that he shouldn't say it even though others in the locker room are making it acceptable then he deserves the punishment. I have been told that I have an honorary card... I still don't use the word. And I think what Peter said is that if they did accept the use of the word then that says something about the locker room. I am guessing (just guessing) that the Eagles dont allow that word to be used. Mike Vick (a leader) handled that situation perfectly. Perhaps, as per Gs1's logic, Vick should hav ejust started throwing the word around the locker room to take the power away from Cooper.

 Gs1... I need that explained logically to me... I hear the words but it has never made sense. We use the word to take the power away... hmmm... or we don't use the word... the word is unacceptable... and therefore some oaf white guy doesn't use it because its deemed acceptable.  With that logic (using it to take the power away) maybe Jewish people should start using swastikas so they can take the power away!

blynder
blynder

@Joebuckster @rikerisle 

Of course, because you can do open heart surgery because you have a heart?  MY point was that because someone says isn't doesn't automatically make it not that.  I may go to my doctor and complain of an ache in my chest, shortness of breath, stiffness, tingling in my arms - it doesn't mean others can say I was suffering from a pulled groin muscle.   

I am black; I know that is hard to determine on the internet so I'll just ask that you trust me on that one.  If you choose not to, well I asked. ;)  I didn't say I know MORE than others; just pointed out that because I am black as well; doesn't mean I get to determine something from a situation I was not in.  Hope that clarifies.

As for expertise on race in America - sorry, there is such a thing.  There are people out there with really good knowledge of what and how race happens.  We might actually get past this stuff if we actually listened too it.  Nor did I use the word "racist" - I rarely use it; it's a personal statement, about a single person or situation and it just doesn't fit for my experience.

Loosely throwing around the accusation of "racist" is not what I did.  I offered a counter to the position the OP had about race in that locker room (from MY point of view as someone who has only read some reports and definitely was not there). As for actual racism (again, no idea what was going on in that locker room) there are things that are MUCH more important for us to deal with about race, other than what some football players said to one another.  I hope that also clarifies.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@rikerisle Great point rikerisle. Here comes the self righteous parade, and all of the self-appointed 'experts' on racism. Racism is not simply determined by the person who thinks they were slighted. I think we all know that there are plenty of people who find racism where it doesn't exist. And since someone usually can't prove hatred or intent of another person, it is subjective and usually exists as an opinion. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't. And no amount of studying 'theory' and 'data' informs you about this particular situation. There is a lot less racism in the world than that which is 'perceived'. I don't know whether Incognito is racist, and nor do you. Loosely throwing around the accusation 'racist' is every bit as offensive.

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