Top NFL stories of 2016

December 31, 2016

The Top NFL Stories of 2016 saw some major events but is there any more than the NFL ratings drop off? Some topics that got sports fans across the spectrum talking are our picks for the 10 biggest NFL stories of the year.


10. Major playoff turnover

If the playoffs started today, we’d see a six-team turnover in a 12-team field—the most since the 2008 season, when seven new teams entered the post-season. One of this year’s upstarts is the Oakland Raiders, who claimed a spot in Week 15 after a 14-year drought. And they did it on the backs of potential league MVPs on both sides of the ball.

Raiders offense growing into a juggernaut around David Carr

Khalil Mack’s big-play ability saving games for surging Raiders 


9. Rookies of the year

When Tony Romo went down with a broken back before the start of the season, many wrote off the Dallas Cowboys. But third-round rookie QB Dak Prescott and No. 5 overall pick RB Ezekiel Elliott combined with a dominant O-line to push the Cowboys back to the playoff without him.


Cowboys, NFL need Tony Romo to stay benched

Why the Cowboys offense can’t be stopped right now


8. Deflategate: Endgame

If nothing else, 2016 was the year we finally got to put Deflategate to bed as Tom Brady served a four-game suspension to start the season. That gave way to the much-too-short Jimmy Garoppolo/Jacoby Brissett era, which resulted in a 3-1 record. The Patriots then predictably rolled to another playoff spot upon Brady’s return.

Person of interest: Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Rob Gronkowski the most dangerous weapon in football again


7. Much ado about kneeling

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat for the American national anthem during his team’s first two pre-season games in order to protest police brutality and social injustice, and no one said anything. But when someone noticed in the third it became the most widely discussed story of the year. Kaepernick eventually decided to kneel for the anthem to make clear that he meant no disrespect to veterans, but his stand remained the same.

Backlash against Colin Kaepernick all too familiar


6. RG3 gets a second chance … in the worst possible way

Like we mentioned above, the Browns were still looking for their quarterback of the future last off-season, but they didn’t come close to finding him. Instead, they grabbed Robert Griffin III in free agency after he was cut by Washington. He got hurt in Week 1, and three and a half months later the team is still looking for its first win of the year.


Robert Griffin III signs with the Browns, and everyone loses


5. Canadian college prospect makes good at the draft

David Onyemata hadn’t played football before moving to Canada from Nigeria. Less than five years later he got drafted into the NFL as the New Orleans Saints traded up to grab him in the fourth round. You know, the usual development process for a pro lineman.


How David Onyemata went from non-player to pro prospect


The 2015 regular season finished with the Tennesse Titans and Cleveland Browns in the first two spots in the draft. Coincidentally, scouts had settled on Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota St.’s Carson Wentz as the only two QBs worth a high pick. While the Browns were clearly still looking for the QB of the future, they didn’t seem interested in either QB, and the relocating L.A. Rams and Philadelphia Eagles snapped up those picks by offering a boatload of draft capital.


The early returns on that investment have been mixed. Wentz started from Day 1 and shone early for the Eagles, but was ultimately undone by a lack of support. Goff had to wait longer to get in, and by the time he did his team’s season was long over.


Why the latest NFL draft blockbuster makes sense for Eagles, Browns


3. Marshawn Lynch, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson retire from NFL Football

Unlike Peyton Manning, Lynch and Johnson were both still producing and playing at a high-enough level. But both made the decision to depart, and there’s been no talk of comebacks. Then at mid-season Andre Johnson, another guy with Hall of Fame potential (albeit to a lesser extent), walked away from the game as well.


Don’t blame the Lions for Calvin Johnson’s early exit

and Andre Johnson’s greatness seems doomed to be forgotten


2. The Sheriff hands the star off to... who?

Manning announced his retirement on March 7, and at the time the succession plan seemed relatively simple: Brock Osweiler was a free agent, but the team had invested in him and would ostensibly find a nice middle ground as far as money went to keep him around. But that didn’t happen. Osweiler left for a four-year, $72-million deal with Houston (which hasn’t exactly worked out), and the Broncos started the year with unknown second-year QB Trevor Siemian. While his stats have been okay, the team has regressed with Siemian under centre, and look like a long shot to make the playoffs.


Peyton Manning earns a chance to make final stand

1. Broncos’ D smothers Newton in Super Bowl 50

There were a lot of storylines in this one. Was it Peyton’s last game? (Yes.) Was Denver's 2015 D the best of all time? (Maybe.) What happened to the Carolina team that went 15-1 in the regular season? (No one knows.) But Cam Newton’s subpar performance, lack of interest in sacrificing his body to recover a fumble, and post-game blowoff of the press made the most headlines.


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