Top Ten Takeaways from NFL Week 16

Football Dec 28, 2020

With only one more week remaining in the 2020 NFL regular season, here's what we've learned from the highly-unusual slate of games played over the long holiday weekend, Thursday through Sunday, with Monday night's game between Buffalo and New England still pending.

[1]  The Cleveland Browns are frauds! – Losing 23-16 to the woeful NY Jets was bad enough, yet it's the way the Browns lost on Sunday afternoon that was humiliating.  Yeah, Cleveland had some COVID issues/injuries at wide receiver.  But they were playing the Jets!  With absolutely everything to play for and their season on the line, Cleveland looked awful – three fumbles, two critical turnovers in the fourth quarter; four sacks, and a miserable 2.5 average yards rushing.  That's not a WR problem.  That's just bad football.  Don't be misled by the Brownies' 10-5 record, this team now needs help to make the playoffs.  None of that will matter, though, as this team will soon be one-and-done.  Everything Cleveland worked to achieve this season was flushed down the toilet in this loss.  Also, the Browns have actually been outscored by their opponents this season, which makes no sense at all for a team with twice as many wins as losses.

[2]  Miami is this season's real Cinderella turnaround team – Give me the Miami Dolphins as the gutsiest team in the NFL right now.  A little over a year ago, the Dolphins were 0-8.  Many football fans said the Dolphins could be the worst team of all time.  And now, here we are in the following season and Miami is 10-5 and positioned to make the playoffs.  Their Saturday night come-from-behind win over the Raiders in Las Vegas was epic, as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick made what might go down as the play of the season with his head being twisted like a pretzel and he still managed to complete a 50-yard pass in the closing seconds, which resulted in a game-winning field goal.  Miami is the NFL's best story, this season, in a year with many great stories.

[3]  Mmm, maybe Pittsburgh isn't dead yet, after all.... – Losing at home to the Colts 21-7 late in the second quarter, it appeared that Pittsburgh was headed to their fourth-straight loss.  The Steelers have looked dreadful since the start of December, and there was even some chance they could have lost the AFC North title after starting out the season at 11-0.  However, Pittsburgh suddenly came alive in the second half against a red-hot Colts team that was ascending in the eyes of AFC observers, and ultimately won a thrilling game.  Pittsburgh got their scare late in the season and now will be a tough obstacle, at least until a possible Kansas City match-up, assuming they make it so far.

[4]  Houston has arguably been the NFL's biggest bust in 2020 – There's no excuse for the Texans – a team that won 11 games in 2018 and then 10 games in 2019 -- to fall to a miserable 4-win abomination.  This team has talent.  But the coaching failed them, and the execution wasn't there.  Losing at home to the Bengals on Sunday was the final blow to a team with massive holes to fill in the coming offseason.

[5]  The Chiefs might be unbeatable, but they're a horrible team to bet on -- Even when Kansas City deserves to lose, they win, like on Sunday versus Atlanta.  Laying -10.5, the defending champion Chiefs were never covering.  They barely scrapped out a 3-point win.  That now makes seven straight weeks Kansas City has failed to cover a point spread.  Yet, they've won 10 straight games and locked up the top-seed in the AFC playoffs.  The Chiefs are a great bet to win, but a terrible bet to cover.  Keep that in mind as the spreads don't seem to have caught on to this unusual pattern of winning lots of close games.

[6]  Tampa Bay should be considered a serious dark horse as a Super Bowl contender – The Bucs finally ended a 13-year playoff drought this week, by destroying the woeful Lions with a romp of a victory and guaranteeing themselves a 10-win season.  Tampa Bay is now an attractive dark horse team in a conference top heavy with three clear favourites, which are all vulnerable if the Bucs play up to their full potential.  Brady speaks for himself under pressure and with that receiver corps, the Bucs can stay with anyone.

[7]  The NFC is a three-team race (okay, with apologies to Tampa Bay) -- Is there any doubt now that Green Bay, New Orleans, and Seattle are the class of the NFC?  Any of these teams can get on a roll and end up in the Super Bowl.  Obviously, hosting a championship game is critical, especially for opponents of the Packers who don't want to play an outdoor game at Lambeau Field in January.  All three of these teams rolled to impressive victories in Week 16 and look playoff-ready.

[8]  Dallas will probably win its final four games, but still miss the playoffs – After destroying the Eagles on Sunday, thus giving the Cowboys a rare three-game winning streak and life as a possible winner of the NFC East (with Washington's gutless loss at home to Carolina), this could be an amazing turnaround from the football grave.  Dead three weeks ago, now all they need to do it beat the fading NY Giants in the final game, and hope that somehow the Eagles can upset Washington.  Indeed, the Washington Football Team controls its own destiny by virtue of beating the Cowboys twice this season.  So, if both teams finish with identical 7-9 records, Washington gets the nod as the division winner and the right to host a playoff game.  Hard to say what condition the Eagles will be in as they are the only team now out of the playoff race.  So, look for Washington to get the win and sew up the garbage trophy as the NFC East winner.

[9]  Could Buffalo tank next week's game so they avoid the Ravens and get Dolphins instead? – The Bill still have to play New England on MNF, but there's some chance the final week versus Miami could make for an interesting scenario.  If they beat New England but lose to Miami, they might be in an odd position to host Miami the following week in the first round of the playoffs.  But beating Miami might let the dangerous Baltimore Ravens in the playoff door, and no one wants to face that team, right now.  

[10]  Finally, no matter what else happens, this has been one helluva' season – Credit the NFL, which rightfully gets bashed for the way they handle so many other problems, but at least in the management of all the games played under the cloud of COVID, with few or no fans in attendance, and multiple games shifting to new days (Wednesday night football, anyone?), the most popular sport in America has pulled off what many said couldn't be done – a complete season with just as much excitement as we've always enjoyed when watching the NFL.  And – yes, let's have football every night of the week starting next season!