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Around the NFL: 32 things we learned in 2016

Rather than looking back at the final week of the NFL regular season, this week’s edition of Around the NFL takes a look back at the 2016 season with one observation on each of the 32 teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Week 17 brings finality to the NFL regular season. As such, there’s little intrigue left. For 20 of 32 teams, there’s nothing left to think about except vacations and the draft. For the remaining 12 teams, football goes on, but we already know just about all there is to know.

So, for the final Around the NFL of the regular season, let us, instead, take a look back at each team to find out what we learned about them all -- in descending order based on winning percentage, because that means we get to save the really fun stuff for almost last.

  1. The New England Patriots (14-2) are very, very beatable — and yet, somehow, only the Bills and the Seahawks have bothered.
  2. The Dallas Cowboys (13-3) got the steal of the 2016 NFL Draft when they selected a decade of dominating the NFC East by choosing quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round — even though they might never figure out how to beat the New York Giants.
  3. Kansas City’s offense scored on a lower percentage of its opportunities than their defense, which is slightly less surprising when you know that defense gave up the sixth-fewest points in the league, but it’s still a funny fact.
  4. The Oakland Raiders are a very, very good team behind quarterback Derek Carr — and very, very bad behind anyone else.
  5. The Atlanta Falcons (11-5) offense was nearly unstoppable, and that paired perfectly with a defense that couldn’t stop a sneeze.
  6. The New York Giants (11-5) accounted for two of Dallas’ three losses, yet they also found a way to lose to the 8-8 Vikings and the 7-9 Eagles.
  7. The Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) topped that, though, and won this year’s Jekyll & Hyde Award: they lost to the 4-12 Rams, the 7-9 Saints, and managed just five points against the 8-8 Buccaneers. Yet they beat the Patriots and the Falcons.
  8. The Green Bay Packers (10-6) entered the playoffs riding the second-longest active winning streak (six) behind the Steelers (seven), and that was mostly because their seasons were nearly perfect copies of one another: each started 4-2, lost four in a row and then won out to capture their division.
  9. The Miami Dolphins (10-6) finished strong, on a 9-2 run, only to find out that their first playoff opponent is the one playoff team they managed to beat during the regular season and the hottest team in the NFL right now. Plus, they won’t be playing in Miami this time.
  10. The Houston Texans (9-7) have the most ambiguous quarterback situation in the league since it doesn’t matter one bit who’s the starter. As the adage goes, “if you have two quarterbacks then you have none.” And that applies double for three QBs. The Texans have tested it.
  11. The 2016 edition of the Detroit Lions (9-7) may be the least exciting playoff team ever. Just about every stat screams “average”.
  12. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7) lost the wild-card slot to the Lions by a tie breaker, which is a shame, because there’s one thing you can definitively say about the Bucs: win or lose, they’re always entertaining.
  13. The Tennessee Titans (9-7) will make the playoffs next year as long as quarterback Marcus Mariota stays healthy. They need a few more pieces, but they have quietly been putting together a fine team in Tennessee.
  14. The 2015 Denver Broncos consisted mostly of Peyton Manning and a stifling defense. The 2016 Broncos (9-7) consisted mostly of a slightly less-inspiring defense and no Manning. As we’ve all pretty much figured out, Manning was a huuuge part of the version of this team that won the Super Bowl a year ago. Trevor Siemian? Not even in the same ballpark.
  15. The Washington Redskins (8-7-1) are the very definition of a second-tier team, because they simply don’t have a true No. 1 player at any position other than tight end (Jordan Reed) and cornerback (Josh Norman). That’s going to take more than one season to fix.
  16. After two-straight seasons at .500 or below for the Baltimore Ravens (8-8), they ought to be a bit concerned. They’re very thin at some key positions, including cornerback, wide receiver and the offensive line.
  17. The Indianapolis Colts (8-8) can be a dangerous team when Andrew Luck plays nearly perfect and T.Y. Hilton is healthy. Unfortunately, Luck playing “almost perfect” is happening less and less often these days. Someone needs to come in from outside and change the approach to coaching him, because the former No. 1-overall draft pick is getting sloppier by the day.
  18. Answer: They were the last remaining undefeated team, until quarterback Sam Bradford experienced what is euphemistically called a “slightly chilly day” in Minneapolis, and proceeded to go 2-8 to end the season. Question: Who are the Minnesota Vikings (8-8)?
  19. The magical powers of the Arizona Cardinals’ (7-8-1) head coach — an ill-tempered, sexagenarian hipster — seem to be wearing off.
  20. When your current head coach is rumored as being the next head coach of several teams that suck way more than you do, it says a lot about your season. That’s the situation for the New Orleans Saints (7-9) and head coach Sean Payton right now.
  21. The most interesting thing I can say about the Philadelphia Eagles is this: they have the distinction of being the only team to win no more than one road game while posting a winning record at home.
  22. The Buffalo Bills’ third mistake was firing Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman instead of Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan after their Week 2 loss to the Jets. Their second mistake was hiring Ryan in the first place. Their first mistake was hiring a head coach (Rex Ryan) who a) would hire his own brother to be one of his two primary assistants, and b) lacked the balls to fire his sibling when he absolutely deserved it.
  23. The Cincinnati Bengals started their internal implosion at the beginning of the season this time, ensuring they were safe from the mental anguish of yet another one-and-done year in the NFL playoffs.
  24. The Broncos got understandably worse on offense with the retirement of Peyton Manning, who holds almost every quarterbacking record that was ever tracked. The Carolina Panthers got inexplicably worse on offense when they lost non-offensive starter (Josh Norman) and got back the beast-like wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a succinct description of how both 2015 Super Bowl teams missed the 2016 playoffs.
  25. Don’t blame New York Jets (5-11) rookie head coach Todd Bowles. Instead, blame the team with the second-worst overall football culture in the entire NFL. Clearly, they still haven’t washed their own Rex Ryan stink off yet, and poor Bowles has to sit in it every day.
  26. It speaks volumes about your team when the only people in town who give half a damn are your fiery quarterback and the long-suffering fans. The ownership of the San Diego Chargers (5-11) certainly doesn’t, and the rest of the players spent most of the season mailing it in.
  27. The Texans don’t have a single starting-caliber quarterback. The Los Angeles Rams (4-12) don’t have a single backup-quality quarterback.
  28. Then again, they could be the Bears (3-13), whose original starter, Jay Cutler, spends half of every game appearing to actively be playing for the other team.
  29. When they drafted Blake Bortles, the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) appeared to be a season away from contending. Two years later, under Bortles, the Jaguars are still a season away from contending. Oh, sorry, that should read, “at least one season”.
  30. Half of your defense retires before the season, your quarterback alienates himself to the front office and to 97 percent of the fan base mere days into the season, and your backup quarterback is Blaine Gabbert. Those, ladies and gentlemen, are the three nicest observations any human could make about the San Francisco 49ers (2-14).
  31. Since 1975 (42 seasons), the Cleveland Browns (1-15) have had 15 head coaches. Of those 15, just one — Marty Schottenheimer — had a winning record during his time with the team. Current head coach Hue Jackson has a long way to go before he even has a shot at becoming the second, considering that, with one season under his belt, he already has 14 more losses than wins.

And, finally...for the first time ever, the Steelers (11-5) will send Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown onto the field at the same time in a playoff game. Considering that they were less than two minutes from knocking the eventual World-Champion Broncos out of the playoffs with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jordan Todman and a rented tuxedo playing running back last year, that’s bad news for everyone else.