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Around the NFL: What We Learned in Week 16

The AFC playoff field is all but set, and the NFC is almost there. But that doesn’t mean football is over. We still have 16 more games to go before the season draws to a close. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look back at week 15. Was it good? Here’s a hint: Cleveland won. No, I didn’t spell “lost for the 3,701st time in a row” wrong.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
In Baltimore, this touchdown will go down as “The Moment Hope Was Born”. It died less than 70 seconds later.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer should be firmly on the coaching hot seat. I’ll give Zimmer the benefit of the doubt, here, because he lost his presumed franchise quarterback before the season ever started and had to make whatever move he could to field the most competitive team possible. Sam Bradford was all that was available, and it took teams about six weeks to figure him out in the current offense. The lack of offense isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of locker room control. Any coach whose players simply “go rogue” and ignore the team’s game plan is a coach who has lost his locker room. And, considering that the offending players weren’t immediately benched for the remainder of the game, he’s failing to send the proper message that players must fall in line and follow his orders or they’ll be finding a new home. Failure to do that invites further revolt and I don’t know that he’s got the stones to deal with it.
  2. Well, that was mostly anticlimactic. The AFC playoff teams are set, with the Patriots, Steelers and Texans winning their divisions while the Raiders and Chiefs will come down to the wire for the AFC West. The loser will get one wild card, and the Dolphins will have the other. What is settled are the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds — the Patriots, Steelers and Texans, respectively. The No. 2, No. 5 and No. 6 seeds might all swap, depending on how things shake out in Week 17.
  3. Cleveland: the City of Self-Flagellating. One of my favorite activities: looking back, when a season is over, and figuring out when the Browns were actually eliminated. This season, they were eliminated after week six. In baseball, that would be roughly the same as being eliminated before summer starts.
  4. Welcome back, Dak. Good golly, these Cowboys are going to be a tough draw for anyone in the playoffs. It didn’t look that way after several down weeks, but after Week 16? Wow! Yes, they trailed the Lions a bit on Monday night, but they took complete control in the second half. His numbers are just ridiculous, and he simply has the kind of poise that most rookies lack. Also, their punter is what we all expected Dan Sepulveda to be—not as a kicker, but as a tackler.
  5. The Week 16 Weekly Fumble goes to...the San Diego Chargers! Because when you lose to the Browns, you automatically get the Weekly Fumble. After all, this award would not even exist without the Browns. Also, when you let the Browns beat you, beards die. Please, save the beards.
  6. College Football Bonus! Bowl Week is off to a decent start. Yes, there are far too many bowl games, but it’s still football and still mostly fun. Yes, they started about 10 days ago, but the truth is, Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day is truly Bowl Week. So far, the most exciting bowl game has been Miami (OH) and Mississippi State. Miami opened up a nine-point lead early with a field goal and a touchdown (the PAT was blocked). But MSU stormed back and took a 17-16 lead into the final seconds, when they blocked Miami’s last-gasp field goal attempt, holding on to win the St. Petersburg Bowl. Yes, that’s actually a thing. Apparently, all you need to host a bowl game is a stadium with electricity and room for at least 300 people.
  7. And, finally...What is the one thing the last two weeks have shown us? That the Steelers have the killer instinct they have lacked the last several years. In back-to-back weeks, they’ve pulled off come-from-behind wins against their two biggest rivals. Heck, against the Ravens, they came from behind twice in the final minutes of the game. When I saw the Ravens score late, all I could think of was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, in Super Bowl XLIII, saying, “get me my hat.” Well, someone got him his hat. Despite two ugly interceptions, he did what we haven’t seen very much in the past few years: he put the team on his back and carried it down the field. Le’Veon Bell may have been the brightest spot for the Steelers for the first 50 minutes, but Roethlisberger emerged as the shining star when the clock struck zero. It’s got to be a scary thing for opposing teams to see the Steelers as their next opponent. Right now, it could be any one of three teams, but they’d all be coming to Pittsburgh. No one wants that right now.

Aw, shucks. Here’s a Christmas gift for you: the best tackle of the year so far:

Can you imagine this guy’s conversation with his boss when he gets back to work?

Boss: “What did you get for Christmas?”

Idiot: “”