2016 NFL Season
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2016 NFL Season
2016 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 8, 2016 (2016-09-08) - January 1, 2017 (2017-01-01)
Playoffs
Start date January 7, 2017
AFC Champions New England Patriots
NFC Champions Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl LI
Date February 5, 2017
Site NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Champions New England Patriots
Pro Bowl
Date January 29, 2017
Site Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

The 2016 NFL season was the 97th season in the history of the National Football League (NFL). The season began on September 8, 2016, with the defending Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos defeating the Carolina Panthers 21-20 in the NFL Kickoff Game. The season concluded with Super Bowl LI, the league's championship game on February 5, 2017, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas with the New England Patriots defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.

For the first time since the Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee in 1997,[note 1] an NFL team relocated to another state, as the former St. Louis Rams moved out of St. Louis, Missouri and returned to Los Angeles, California, its home from 1946 to 1994.[1][2] For the first time since the 2003 NFL season, neither of the previous season's Super Bowl participants made the playoffs.[3]

The 2016 season was also the last season for the San Diego Chargers after playing in San Diego for fifty-six years before their return to the city of Los Angeles for 2017, where the franchise was based in for their first season in 1960.

Player movements and retirements

The 2016 NFL league year began on March 9, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. ET. On March 7 clubs started to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who became unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2015 contracts two days later. On March 9, clubs exercised options for 2016 on players who have option clauses in their 2015 contracts, submitted qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom desire to retain a Right of Refusal/Compensation, submitted a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2015 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued season of free agent credit, and teams were required to be under the salary cap, using the "Top-51" definition (in which the 51 highest-paid players on the team's payroll must have a collective salary cap hit below the actual cap). All 2015 players contracts expired and trading period for 2016 begin.

Free agency

A total of 496 players were eligible for some form of free agency at the beginning of the free agency period.[4] In addition, a number of highly paid players were released after the start of the league year to allow their teams to regain space under the salary cap. Among the high-profile players who changed teams via free agency were cornerbacks Josh Norman (from Panthers to Redskins), Janoris Jenkins (Rams to Giants), Prince Amukamara (Giants to Jaguars), Sean Smith (from Chiefs to Raiders) and Casey Hayward (Packers to Chargers); safeties Eric Weddle (Chargers to Ravens), Rodney McLeod (Rams to Eagles) and Tashaun Gipson (Browns to Jaguars); defensive ends Malik Jackson (Broncos to Jaguars) and Olivier Vernon (Dolphins to Giants); defensive tackles Damon Harrison (Jets to Giants) and Brandon Mebane (Seahawks to Chargers); linebackers Danny Trevathan (Broncos to Bears), Demario Davis (Jets to Browns) and Bruce Irvin (Seahawks to Raiders); offensive tackles Mitchell Schwartz (Browns to Chiefs), Donald Stephenson (Chiefs to Broncos), Bobby Massie (Cardinals to Bears) and Russell Okung (Seahawks to Broncos); guards Kelechi Osemele (Ravens to Raiders), J. R. Sweezy (Seahawks to Buccaneers) and Alex Boone (49ers to Vikings); center Alex Mack (Browns to Falcons); tight ends Benjamin Watson (Saints to Ravens) and Coby Fleener (Colts to Saints); wide receivers Rishard Matthews (Dolphins to Titans) Travis Benjamin (Browns to Chargers), Marvin Jones (Bengals to Lions) and Mohamed Sanu (Bengals to Falcons); running backs Lamar Miller (Dolphins to Texans), Matt Forte (Bears to Jets), Alfred Morris (Redskins to Cowboys), and Chris Ivory (Jets to Jaguars); and quarterbacks Brock Osweiler (Broncos to Texans) and Robert Griffin III (Redskins to Browns).[5][6]

Trades

Draft

The 2016 NFL Draft was held between April 28 - April 30, 2016 in Chicago. By way of a trade with the Tennessee Titans, the Los Angeles Rams held the first overall pick and selected QB Jared Goff.

Notable retirements

  • Oakland Raiders' defensive back Charles Woodson announced he would retire from professional football at the end of the 2015 season on December 21, 2015. He played eighteen seasons, starting with the Raiders for eight seasons and after spending seven with the Green Bay Packers, he returned to the Raiders for his final three seasons. He was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the 2009 season and is tied with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for most career defensive touchdowns with 13.
  • Seattle Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement from professional football on February 7, 2016. Lynch played nine seasons, four of them with the Buffalo Bills and five of them with the Seahawks. Lynch was a five-time Pro Bowler, led the league in rushing touchdowns two seasons (2013-2014), co-led in total touchdowns one season (2014), and won a championship title with the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Lynch would return to the NFL as a member of the Oakland Raiders the following year.
  • Carolina Panthers' defensive end Jared Allen announced his retirement from professional football on February 18, 2016. Allen played twelve seasons, his first four with the Kansas City Chiefs, then six with the Minnesota Vikings, and spent his last two seasons with the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. A five-time Pro Bowl and four-time All-Pro selection, Allen tallied 136 quarterback sacks during his career. In 2011, Allen had 22 sacks but fell 0.5 sacks short of the single season NFL record held by former New York Giants' defensive end Michael Strahan.
  • Denver Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning announced his retirement from professional football on March 7, 2016, exactly one month after the Broncos defeated the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Manning played in the NFL for seventeen seasons -- the first thirteen with the Indianapolis Colts (1998-2010), before missing the entire 2011 season due to recovery from neck surgery, then played the last four seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos (2012-2015). Manning appeared in four Super Bowls (two with Indianapolis, two with Denver) and won one with each team -- Super Bowl XLI and Super Bowl 50 and is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
  • Detroit Lions' wide receiver Calvin Johnson announced his retirement from professional football, one day after Manning on March 8, 2016. Johnson played his entire nine-year career with the Lions, including six Pro Bowl selections and three First Team All-Pro selections. He also set a single-season record for receiving yards in 2012 with 1,964.
  • Carolina Panthers' cornerback Charles Tillman announced his retirement from professional football on July 18, 2016. Tillman, nicknamed "Peanut", spent the first twelve years of his NFL career with the Chicago Bears (2003-2014), before signing with the Panthers in 2015. Tillman was a two-time Pro Bowler, and forced 42 fumbles during his first twelve seasons, the most of any defensive back since the statistic was first recorded in 1984.
  • Miami Dolphins' wide receiver Greg Jennings announced his retirement from professional football on July 25, 2016. Jennings spent his first seven seasons with the Packers and was a member of their 2010 championship team that won Super Bowl XLV. He then spent his remaining three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins, respectively. Jennings was a two-time Pro Bowler.
  • Miami Dolphins' running back Arian Foster announced his retirement from professional football on October 25, 2016. Foster spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Houston Texans from 2009-2015, but played only four games with the Dolphins in 2016. Foster was plagued by injuries in the last two seasons of his career, including a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2015. Foster is the Texans' franchise leader in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards in a single season (a league-leading 1,616 in 2010), most rushing touchdowns in a single season and became the first player in NFL history to have 100+ rushing yards in his first three postseason games.[15]
  • Tennessee Titans' wide receiver Andre Johnson announced his retirement from professional football on October 31, 2016. Johnson gave the announcement just six days after former Texans' teammate Arian Foster announced his. Johnson spent 12 seasons with the Houston Texans from 2003-2014. He was a 7-time Pro Bowler, 2-time First Team All-Pro, and a 2-time Second Team All-Pro. He led the league in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009 with the Texans before becoming the highest paid wide receiver in NFL history in 2010. Johnson played 16 games with the Indianapolis Colts, catching 41 passes for only 503 yards in 2015. He joined the Titans in 2016 and played in eight games before retiring after Week 8. Johnson is the Texans' franchise leader in career receptions, career receiving yards, career receiving touchdowns, and has the most starts as a Texan at 169.

Regular season

The 2016 regular season featured 256 games which were played out over a seventeen-week schedule beginning on Thursday, September 8, 2016. Each of the league's 32 teams played a 16-game schedule, with one bye week for each team scheduled between weeks 4-13. The slate also featured games on Monday night. There were games played on Thursday, including the National Football League Kickoff game in prime time on September 8 and games on Thanksgiving Day. The regular season concluded with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, January 1, 2017, all of which were intra-divisional matchups, as it has been since 2010.

Scheduling formula

Under the NFL's current scheduling formula, each team played each of the other three teams in its own division twice. In addition, a team played against all four teams in one other division from each conference. The final two games on a team's schedule were against the two teams in the team's own conference in the two divisions the team was not set to play which finished the previous season in the same rank in their division (e.g. the team which finished first in its division the previous season played each other team in its conference that also finished first in its respective division). The pre-set division pairings for 2016 were:

Highlights of the 2016 schedule included:

  • NFL Kickoff Game: The 2016 season began on Thursday, September 8, 2016, with a rematch of the previous Super Bowl. The defending Super Bowl 50 champions, the Denver Broncos, hosted the Carolina Panthers at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC. This was the first time since the Kickoff game was established that it was a rematch of the previous Super Bowl and the first such meeting of both Super Bowl participants during the first week of the next season since the 1970 season when the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs held a rematch of Super Bowl IV to kick off the new post-merger era of the National Football League. The Broncos debuted Trevor Siemian as their new starting quarterback; Siemian had been the Broncos' third-string quarterback and ascended to the starting position after Peyton Manning, their starting quarterback for the 2012 through 2015 seasons, retired following Super Bowl 50, and second-stringer Brock Osweiler left as a free agent for the Houston Texans. The Broncos rallied from a ten-point deficit to win 21-20.
  • International Series: Four games were played internationally this season. Three of the games were played in London, England and the fourth was played in Mexico City, Mexico. The Jacksonville Jaguars played host to the Indianapolis Colts on October 2 at Wembley Stadium, marking the fourth of at least eight consecutive years in which the Jaguars will host a game in London; the previously winless Jaguars won, 30-27. On October 23, in the first-ever NFL game at Twickenham Stadium also in London, the Los Angeles Rams hosted the New York Giants, with the Giants winning 17-10. The Cincinnati Bengals played host to the Washington Redskins on October 30 at Wembley Stadium in London[16] and the game became the first London game to both go into overtime and end in a tie, with the final score tied at 27. Finally, on Monday, November 21, the Oakland Raiders hosted the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, in the first-ever Monday night game to be played outside of the United States and the second regular-season contest to be held in Mexico (the first being the 2005 Fútbol Americano contest),[17] with the Raiders winning 27-20.
  • Thanksgiving Day games: As has been the case since 2006, three games were played on Thursday, November 24, 2016. The Detroit Lions hosted the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Washington Redskins, and the evening game, the first Thanksgivng game to feature teams from the AFC since 2013, featured the Indianapolis Colts hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Christmas Day games: Christmas Day, December 25, fell on a Sunday in 2016. When that occurs (most recently in 2011), the Sunday afternoon games were moved to Saturday, Christmas Eve. This year, two games were shown nationally on Christmas Day -- Ravens at Steelers at 4:30 p.m. EST on the NFL Network, and Broncos at Chiefs at 8:30 p.m. EST on NBC.
  • New Year's Day Games: The NFL played a full slate of 16 games, all of which were intradivisional matchups, on Sunday, January 1, 2017, to conclude the regular season. The College Football Playoff played its semifinals on Saturday, December 31, 2016, while the other college bowl games were played on Monday, January 2, as is tradition when New Year's Day occurs on a Sunday. In contrast, the National Hockey League, which traditionally held its showcase Winter Classic on New Year's Day afternoon but moved that contest to Monday in 2012, did not cede the afternoon to the NFL in 2017; the NHL had scheduled the Centennial Classic opposite the NFL's regional games for January 1, in addition to the 2017 Winter Classic on January 2. Both host teams for the NHL outdoor games were in markets that did not have an NFL team: Toronto and St. Louis respectively. Toronto (other than its leasing the Buffalo Bills for one game a year from 2008 to 2013) has never held an NFL franchise of its own, while St Louis had lost the Rams during the previous offseason when they moved back to Los Angeles (St. Louis previously hosted the Cardinals from 1960-87).

The complete 2016 schedule was released on Thursday, April 14, 2016.

In-season scheduling changes

  • Pro Football Hall of Fame Game: The 2016 edition of the preseason Hall of Fame Game, between the Packers and the Colts, was canceled due to unsafe playing conditions at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, caused by the use of improper paints applied to the field to create the Hall of Fame logo and other markings.[18]
  • Week 8: The Packers-Falcons game, originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET, was switched to 4:25 p.m. ET in place of the originally-scheduled Cardinals-Panthers game, which was originally scheduled for 4:25 p.m. ET (both games still on Fox).[19]
  • Week 12: The Chiefs-Broncos game, originally scheduled for 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS, was flexed into the 8:30 p.m. ET slot on NBC's Sunday Night Football, in place of the originally-scheduled Patriots-Jets game, which was moved to 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS.[20]
  • Week 14: The Saints-Buccaneers game, originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET, was switched to 4:25 p.m. ET, still on Fox. The Bears-Lions game was "cross-flexed" from Fox to CBS, still at 1:00 p.m. ET.[21]
  • Week 15: The Buccaneers-Cowboys game, originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox, was flexed into the 8:30 p.m. ET slot on NBC's Sunday Night Football, in place of the originally-scheduled Steelers-Bengals game, which was moved to 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.[22]
  • Week 16: The Buccaneers-Saints game, originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox, was switched to 4:25 p.m. ET (still on Fox).[23]
  • Week 17: The Packers-Lions game, which was originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox, was selected for the final NBC Sunday Night Football game, which for the second consecutive season decided the NFC North division champion. Also, the Saints-Falcons game and the Giants-Redskins game were moved from 1:00 p.m. ET to 4:25 p.m. ET, with both games still on Fox.

Regular season standings

Division

Conference

AFC
# Team Division W L T PCT DIV CONF SOS SOV STK
Division leaders
1 New England Patriots East 14 2 0 .875 5-1 11-1 .439 .424 W7
2[a] Kansas City Chiefs West 12 4 0 .750 6-0 9-3 .508 .479 W2
3 Pittsburgh Steelers North 11 5 0 .688 5-1 9-3 .494 .423 W7
4[b] Houston Texans South 9 7 0 .563 5-1 7-5 .502 .427 L1
Wild Cards
5[a] Oakland Raiders West 12 4 0 .750 3-3 9-3 .504 .443 L1
6 Miami Dolphins East 10 6 0 .625 4-2 7-5 .455 .341 L1
Did not qualify for the playoffs
7[b][c] Tennessee Titans South 9 7 0 .563 2-4 6-6 .465 .458 W1
8[c] Denver Broncos West 9 7 0 .563 2-4 6-6 .549 .455 W1
9[d] Baltimore Ravens North 8 8 0 .500 4-2 7-5 .498 .363 L2
10[d] Indianapolis Colts South 8 8 0 .500 3-3 5-7 .492 .406 W1
11 Buffalo Bills East 7 9 0 .438 1-5 4-8 .482 .339 L2
12 Cincinnati Bengals North 6 9 1 .406 3-3 5-7 .521 .333 W1
13[e] New York Jets East 5 11 0 .313 2-4 4-8 .518 .313 W1
14[e] San Diego Chargers West 5 11 0 .313 1-5 4-8 .543 .513 L5
15 Jacksonville Jaguars South 3 13 0 .188 2-4 2-10 .527 .417 L1
16 Cleveland Browns North 1 15 0 .063 0-6 1-11 .549 .313 L1
Tiebreakers[f]
  1. ^ a b Kansas City clinched the AFC West division over Oakland based on head-to-head sweep.
  2. ^ a b Houston clinched the AFC South division title over Tennessee based on record vs. division opponents.
  3. ^ a b Tennessee finished ahead of Denver based on head-to-head victory.
  4. ^ a b Baltimore finished ahead of Indianapolis based on record vs. conference opponents.
  5. ^ a b The New York Jets finished ahead of San Diego based record vs. common opponents -- the Jets' cumulative record against Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Miami was 1-4, while San Diego's cumulative record against the same four teams was 0-5.
  6. ^ When breaking ties for three or more teams under the NFL's rules, they are first broken within divisions, then comparing only the highest ranked remaining team from each division.
NFC
# Team Division W L T PCT DIV CONF SOS SOV STK
Division leaders
1 Dallas Cowboys East 13 3 0 .813 3-3 9-3 .471 .440 L1
2 Atlanta Falcons South 11 5 0 .688 5-1 9-3 .480 .452 W4
3 Seattle Seahawks West 10 5 1 .656 3-2-1 6-5-1 .441 .425 W1
4 Green Bay Packers North 10 6 0 .625 5-1 8-4 .508 .453 W6
Wild Cards
5 New York Giants East 11 5 0 .688 4-2 8-4 .486 .455 W1
6[a] Detroit Lions North 9 7 0 .563 3-3 7-5 .475 .392 L3
Did not qualify for the playoffs
7[a] Tampa Bay Buccaneers South 9 7 0 .563 4-2 7-5 .492 .434 W1
8 Washington Redskins East 8 7 1 .531 3-3 6-6 .516 .430 L1
9 Minnesota Vikings North 8 8 0 .500 2-4 5-7 .492 .457 W1
10 Arizona Cardinals West 7 8 1 .469 4-1-1 6-5-1 .463 .366 W2
11[b] New Orleans Saints South 7 9 0 .438 2-4 6-6 .523 .393 L1
12[b] Philadelphia Eagles East 7 9 0 .438 2-4 5-7 .559 .518 W2
13 Carolina Panthers South 6 10 0 .375 1-5 5-7 .518 .354 L2
14 Los Angeles Rams West 4 12 0 .250 2-4 3-9 .504 .500 L7
15 Chicago Bears North 3 13 0 .188 2-4 3-9 .521 .396 L4
16 San Francisco 49ers West 2 14 0 .125 2-4 2-10 .504 .250 L1
Tiebreakers[c]
  1. ^ a b Detroit finished ahead of Tampa Bay for the No. 6 seed and qualified for the last playoff spot based on record vs. common opponents -- Detroit's cumulative record against Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New Orleans was 3-2, while Tampa Bay's cumulative record against the same four teams was 2-3.
  2. ^ a b New Orleans finished ahead of Philadelphia based on better record vs. conference opponents.
  3. ^ When breaking ties for three or more teams under the NFL's rules, they are first broken within divisions, then comparing only the highest ranked remaining team from each division.

Postseason

The 2016 playoffs began on the weekend of January 7-8, 2017 with the Wild Card playoff round. The four winners of these playoff games visited the top two seeded teams in each conference in the Divisional round games, which were played on the weekend of January 14-15, 2017. The winners of those games advanced to the Conference championship games, which will be held on January 22, 2017. The 2017 Pro Bowl was held at the recently renovated Camping World Stadium (the former Citrus Bowl stadium) in Orlando, Florida on January 29, 2017 and aired on ESPN.[24]Super Bowl LI was held on February 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston on Fox.

Playoffs bracket

                                   
Jan 8 - Heinz Field   Jan 15 - Arrowhead Stadium          
  6   Miami   12
  3   Pittsburgh   18
  3   Pittsburgh   30     Jan 22 - Gillette Stadium
  2   Kansas City   16  
AFC
Jan 7 - NRG Stadium   3   Pittsburgh   17
Jan 14 - Gillette Stadium
    1   New England   36  
  5   Oakland   14 AFC Championship
  4   Houston   16
  4   Houston   27   Feb 5 - NRG Stadium
  1   New England   34  
Wild card playoffs  
Divisional playoffs
Jan 8 - Lambeau Field  A1    New England   34*
Jan 15 - AT&T Stadium
   N2    Atlanta   28
  5   NY Giants   13 Super Bowl LI
  4   Green Bay   34
  4   Green Bay   38     Jan 22 - Georgia Dome
  1   Dallas   31  
NFC
Jan 7 - CenturyLink Field   4   Green Bay   21
Jan 14 - Georgia Dome
    2   Atlanta   44  
  6   Detroit   6 NFC Championship
  3   Seattle   20
  3   Seattle   26  
  2   Atlanta   36  


* Indicates overtime victory

Notable events

Deflategate

On April 25, 2016, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension for the 2016 regular season related to Deflategate; Brady dropped his appeal shortly thereafter and declined to take his case to the Supreme Court.[25][26]

2016 deaths

The following people associated with the NFL (or AFL) died in 2016.[27]

Dennis Green

Dennis Green died July 21. Green was named the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 1992, becoming the second full-time black head coach in NFL history (Art Shell, who had been hired for the Los Angeles Raiders three years prior, was the first). Green spent ten years coaching the Vikings, eight of them being playoff seasons, but never made it to the Super Bowl. He then took over the Arizona Cardinals from 2004 to 2006, to much less success, most infamously in the Monday Night Meltdown, in which he let off a tirade after losing a game. Green had also spent time as an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers and as a broadcast commentator. Green was 67.[28]

Buddy Ryan

Buddy Ryan

James "Buddy" Ryan died June 28. Ryan, a head coach and defensive coordinator who served with six NFL teams over the course of his career, was credited with inventing the 46 defense. His contributions to the game were considered crucial to helping the New York Jets secure an upset win in Super Bowl III and played a key role in the Chicago Bears' rout in Super Bowl XX. His sons, Rex and Rob, were both coaches with the Buffalo Bills at the time (a team the elder Ryan turned down a coaching offer from in the early years of his career). Ryan was 85.[29][30]

Other notable deaths

Julius Adams, Caesar Belser, John Binotto, Cary Blanchard, Ron Brace, Clarence Brooks, Fred Bruney, Rudy Bukich, Dennis Byrd, Patrick Cain, Keion Carpenter, Gail Cogdill, Bruce DeHaven, David Douglas, Robert Eddins, Bill Glassford, Ken Gorgal, Quentin Groves, Bob Harrison, Joe Hergert, Winston Hill, Greg Horton, Gary Jeter, Paul Jetton, Curley Johnson, Ted Karras, Johnny Lattner, Jacky Lee, Mike McCoy, Joe McKnight, Ted Marchibroda, Andy Maurer, Lou Michaels, Lawrence Phillips, Chuck Pitcock, Fred Quillan, Konrad Reuland, Willie Richardson, Bill Robinson, Bryan Robinson, Leo Rucka, Rashaan Salaam, Will Smith, Bill Stanfill, Steve Thompson, Zurlon Tipton, Kevin Turner, Bill Wade, Fulton Walker, Tray Walker, Elmer Wingate, Al Wistert, John Wittenborn, George Yarno.

National anthem protests

In 2016, several professional athletes have protested the United States national anthem. The protests began in the NFL after San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the anthem, as opposed to the tradition of standing, before a preseason game.[31]

Rule changes

The following rule changes were approved for the 2016 NFL season at the owners' meeting on March 22:[32]

  • Allowing the offensive and defensive play callers on the coaching staffs to use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches' booth.
  • Permanently adopting the extra-point rules enacted in the 2015 NFL season. Extra point kicks will be from the 15 yard line, and defenses can return blocked PAT's, fumbles or interceptions on two-point tries for a two-point defensive conversion.
  • Outlaw all chop blocks anywhere on the field. Previously, the chop block was legal when an offensive lineman chops a defensive player "while the defensive player is physically engaged above the waist by the blocking attempt of another offensive teammate".
  • Expand the definition of a "horse-collar tackle" to include tackles where a player is grabbed by the jersey at or above the name plate and dragged to the ground.
  • Making the act of calling time-out when not permitted to do so subject to a delay-of-game penalty (5 yards).
  • Changing from a five-yard penalty to a loss of down when a receiver goes out of bounds and comes back in to illegally touch a forward pass.
  • Eliminating multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul committed after a change of possession.

The following changes were approved for only the 2016 NFL season at the owners' meeting on March 23. Both are subject to become permanent rules or scrapped for the 2017.

  • Moving the touchback spot after kickoffs and other free kicks to the 25-yard line, similar to the NCAA rule adopted in the 2012 season (a touchback after a turnover or punt will still be placed on the 20-yard line). The goal for this rule change is to decrease the number of kickoff returns: kick returners may be more reluctant to bring the ball out from the end zone because of the greater risk of being tackled before reaching the 25-yard line. NFL officials concede that this may in fact increase kickoff returns because kickers may instead attempt to pin returners inside the 10-yard line.[33]
  • Players committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game will be automatically ejected from the game. This was in response to New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. committing three personal fouls in one game against the Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman without being ejected. This change is being referred to as the "Odell Beckham Rule". NFL officials, however, concede that this new rule would not have ejected Beckham since he committed personal fouls and not unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.[34]

The following changes to instant replay rules were approved for the 2016 NFL season at the owners' meeting on May 24:[35]

  • Refining what is a reviewable play, including the following:
    • Plays involving possession.
    • Plays involving touching of either the ball or the ground.
    • Plays governed by the goal line.
    • Plays governed by the boundary lines.
    • Plays governed by the line of scrimmage.
    • Plays governed by the line to gain (1st down).
    • Number of players on the field at the snap.
    • Game administration (which includes correct application of the playing rules, proper down, spot of the foul for penalty application, and game clock status (running clock, not running clock, end of period)

Additional rule updates made for the 2016 season include:

  • Banning players from wearing hoodies under their uniform shirts. This was adopted in response to Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones using that style in the 2015 season, which hid his name plate under the hood.[36]
  • Banning any coaches except for the head coach from entering the field of play, and then only to check on an injured player. This was in response to the incident involving Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter and several Cincinnati Bengals players, especially Adam Jones, during the 2015-16 NFL playoffs.[36]
  • If the coin does not flip (as it did during the 2015-16 NFL Playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals), during the pre-game or pre-OT toss, the Referee can re-toss the coin using the captain's original call.
  • Practice squads can now have up to four players with two seasons of experience, an increase from the two players allowed the previous two years.[37]
  • Injury reports will no longer include the "probable" designation. The league had discouraged using the designation for anything beyond minor injuries after 2005 (in a game in which Michael Vick, listed as probable on the injury report, was also listed as inactive), to the point where almost all of the players who were being listed as probable ultimately played. The "questionable" category will now be broadened to include any injury that could possibly prevent a player from entering the game, while the "doubtful" category will likewise be generalized to include any player who is more likely to not play than play. Prior to 2016, each designation represented the approximate odds of the player seeing any playing time: 75 percent for probable, 50 percent for questionable and 25 percent for doubtful.[38]

Records, milestones, and notable statistics

Week 1
  • Cam Newton scored his 44th career rushing touchdown, surpassing Steve Young for the most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history. Newton, who had scored a passing touchdown in the first quarter, also surpassed Young for the most career games with both a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown by a quarterback in NFL history, with 32.[39]
  • Drew Brees tied Peyton Manning for the most 400-yard passing games in a career (17 overall, regular season and postseason combined) by a quarterback.[40]
Week 2
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
  • Jay Ajayi rushed for 214 yards. With his 204-yard rushing output the week before, Ajayi became the fourth player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards in consecutive games, joining O.J. Simpson (who accomplished the feat twice), Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.[51]
  • Adam Vinatieri set a new NFL record for most consecutive regular season field-goals made with 43, breaking the record that was held by Mike Vanderjagt.[52] His streak ended at 44 after a miss in Week 11.[53]
  • Matt Ryan set an NFL record for the most consecutive games with at least 200 passing yards, with 46.[54]
Week 8
  • The Redskins-Bengals match ended in a 27-27 tie. It was the first time an International Series game had ended in a tie (and the first ever such game to have gone into overtime). It was also the first time since 1997 where two games ended in a tie in the same season.[55]
  • The Raiders were penalized 23 times for 200 yards, setting a new NFL record for the most penalties against a team in a single game.[56]
Week 9
  • The San Francisco 49ers set an NFL record for allowing an opponent's running back to run for 100 or more yards in seven consecutive games.[57]
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
Week 13
  • With the Patriots' victory, Tom Brady broke Peyton Manning's record of most career wins by a quarterback (regular season and playoffs) in NFL history with his 201st win.[65]
  • Larry Fitzgerald became the youngest player in NFL history (33 years, 95 days) to reach 1,100 career catches.[66]
Week 14
Week 15
Week 16
Week 17

Postseason

Divisional Round
  • The Patriots advanced to their sixth consecutive AFC Championship Game, surpassing the 1973-1977 Oakland Raiders for the most consecutive appearances in a conference championship game in history.[75]
  • Chris Boswell made a postseason record six field goals during the Steelers' win over the Chiefs.[76]
  • Dak Prescott became the first rookie starting QB to throw three touchdown passes in a postseason game in the Super Bowl era.[77]
  • Patriots' RB Dion Lewis became the first player in NFL history to score a rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdown in a playoff game.[78]
Super Bowl LI
  • Super Bowl LI marked an NFL record seventh Super Bowl appearance for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as a QB/head coach duo.[79]
  • Super Bowl LI also marked the New England Patriots' ninth Super Bowl appearance, breaking a record shared with the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Tom Brady's 43 pass completions, 62 pass attempts, and 466 passing yards all set new single game Super Bowl records.
  • For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl went into overtime.
  • After trailing 28-3, the Patriots won the game 34-28, completing the largest comeback win in both team history and Super Bowl history.
  • Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl, which tied defensive player Charles Haley for the most Super Bowl victories won by a player, and he became the first quarterback in NFL history to do so.
  • Tom Brady was named the Super Bowl MVP. This was the fourth time Brady won the award, giving him more career Super Bowl MVP awards than any other player in NFL history.
  • The Atlanta Falcons became the first losing team in Super Bowl history to return an interception for a touchdown; teams returning an interception for a touchdown in the Super Bowl had been a perfect 12-0.[80]

Head coach/front office personnel changes

Head coach

Offseason

Team 2015 head coach 2015 interim 2016 replacement Reason for leaving Notes
Cleveland Browns Mike Pettine Hue Jackson Fired Pettine compiled a record of 10-22 (.313) in two years with the Browns, finishing in last place in the AFC North both years. After putting up a promising record of 7-9 the season before, the team, marred by the actions of Johnny Manziel off the field, regressed heavily, forcing the Browns to hire their fifth head coach in eight seasons. The decision to fire Pettine came the day before the end of the regular season.[81]

On January 13, the Browns hired Jackson as their head coach. Jackson spent most of the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals and had previously served as head coach for the Oakland Raiders.[82]

Miami Dolphins Joe Philbin Dan Campbell Adam Gase Philbin compiled a record of 24-28 (.462), with no playoff appearances, in 3¼ seasons as head coach of the Dolphins. The Dolphins were expected to be contenders for a playoff position in 2015 but grossly underachieved, starting the season 1-3, which led to Philbin's firing. Philbin joined the Indianapolis Colts as offensive line coach for 2016. Campbell, the team's tight ends coach, took over for the rest of the season; following the season, he joined the New Orleans Saints as tight ends coach.[83]

On January 9, the Dolphins hired Gase as their head coach. Gase had spent the past season as the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears; at age 37, Gase became the youngest active head coach in the NFL.[84]

Philadelphia Eagles Chip Kelly Pat Shurmur Doug Pederson Kelly was released on December 29, 2015, one week prior to the end of the regular season, following the Eagles being eliminated from playoff contention. He finished with a record of 26-21 (.553) and one playoff appearance (a single loss in 2013) over almost three seasons. Heading into 2015, Kelly made several controversial roster moves as general manager that didn't pan out, leading to his firing. Offensive Coordinator (and former Cleveland Browns head coach) Pat Shurmur served as interim replacement for week 17.[85] Shurmur finished 1-0 as the Eagles head coach, and was a frontrunner in the Eagles head coaching race along with Tom Coughlin and Doug Pederson; following the season, he joined the Minnesota Vikings as tight ends coach and later offensive coordinator after the sudden resignation of Norv Turner.

On January 18, the Eagles hired Pederson as their head coach. Pederson had spent the previous three season as offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, and was also a former QB for the Eagles.[86]

San Francisco 49ers Jim Tomsula Chip Kelly Tomsula compiled a record of 5-11 (.313) in his lone full season as head coach of the 49ers.[87]

On January 14, the 49ers hired Kelly as their head coach. Kelly had spent the previous three seasons as head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.[88]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lovie Smith Dirk Koetter Smith compiled a record of 8-24 (.250), with no playoff appearances, in two years with the Buccaneers, finishing in last place in the NFC South both years.[89] Smith moved to the college ranks, becoming the head coach of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini football team.

On January 14, Koetter was promoted to head coach after serving as offensive coordinator with the team since 2015.[90]

Tennessee Titans Ken Whisenhunt Mike Mularkey Whisenhunt compiled a record of 3-20 (.130), with no playoff appearances, in 1½ seasons as head coach of the Titans. After an impressive opening day win, the Titans lost six straight, resulting in Whisenhunt's dismissal. Mularkey, the team's tight ends coach, took over as interim head coach. Mularkey's previous head coaching experience includes two seasons with the Buffalo Bills (2004-05) and one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2012).[91] For 2016, Whisenhunt joined the San Diego Chargers as offensive coordinator.

On January 16, Mularkey shed the interim tag and was hired as the full-time head coach.[92]

New York Giants Tom Coughlin Ben McAdoo Resigned Coughlin compiled a record of 102-90 (.531) in 12 years with the Giants, a tenure that included three division titles, five playoff appearances (with a collective record of 8-3 in those games), and two Super Bowl wins (Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI, both over the New England Patriots). Since winning Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants had missed the playoffs every year and had accrued three consecutive losing seasons immediately prior to Coughlin's resignation.[93] On January 14, McAdoo was promoted to head coach after serving as offensive coordinator with the team since 2014.[94]

In-season

Team 2016 head coach Reason for leaving Interim replacement Story/accomplishments
Los Angeles Rams Jeff Fisher Fired John Fassel After receiving a two-year contract extension prior to the season, Fisher was fired after going 4-9 in the season, and 31-45-1 (.414) in his tenure in St. Louis and Los Angeles. Under his tenure, the Rams never finished better than 7-8-1 (2012) and never reached the playoffs.[95] Fassel, the son of former NFL head coach Jim Fassel, has been the Rams' special teams coach since 2012.
Jacksonville Jaguars Gus Bradley Doug Marrone Bradley was fired after four seasons and a 14-48 (.226) record with no playoff appearances.[96] Marrone, the Jaguars' offensive line coach, was previously head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2013-14.[97]
Buffalo Bills Rex Ryan Anthony Lynn Ryan was fired after two seasons and a 15-16 record with no playoff appearances. His twin brother, assistant head coach Rob Ryan, was also dismissed.[98] Lynn began the 2016 season as running backs coach, then moved up to offensive coordinator when Greg Roman was fired in week 3, then interim head coach after Ryan's dismissal.[99]

Front office

Offseason

Team Position 2015 office holder 2015 interim 2016 replacement Reason for leaving Notes
Cleveland Browns GM Ray Farmer Sashi Brown Fired The Browns released Ray Farmer after the final game of the 2015 regular season. He had been with the team for three seasons, two as general manager.[81]

As of April 2016, the Browns had not named a general manager; the duties are being filled in the interim by executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, an attorney by trade who has served in the Browns front office since 2013.

Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew Sheldon White Bob Quinn After starting the season 1-6, the Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. One week later, after another loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, owner Martha Firestone Ford fired Mayhew and Lewand.[100]

On January 8, the Lions hired Quinn as their GM. Quinn had spent the previous 16 seasons in various positions in the front office of the New England Patriots.[101]

Team President Tom Lewand Rod Wood
Miami Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey Chris Grier The Dolphins fired GM Hickey, who had spent the past two years with the team.[102] Grier, Dolphins' director of college scouting, appointed as the new GM on January 5, 2016.[103]
Philadelphia Eagles VP- Player Personnel Ed Marynowitz Tom Donahoe Vice President of Player Personnel Ed Marynowitz was fired alongside head coach Chip Kelly on December 29, 2015. Donahoe last served as president and general manager of the Buffalo Bills from 2001 to 2005 but has largely been out of football in the ten years since his firing from that position.[85]
GM (de facto) Chip Kelly Howie Roseman Roseman, who carried the title of "executive vice president of football operations" while Kelly handled general manager duties in 2015, reverted to his previous general manager duties after Kelly's firing.[85]
Tennessee Titans GM Ruston Webster Jon Robinson The Titans released Webster the Monday following their final game of the 2015 regular season. Webster had spent the past four seasons with the team.[104]

On January 14, the Titans hired Robinson as GM. Robinson had spent the previous three seasons as Director of Player Personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[105]

Awards

Individual season awards

All-Pro team

The following players were named First Team All-Pro by the Associated Press:

Players of the week/month

The following were named the top performers during the 2016 season:

Week/
Month
Offensive
Player of the Week/Month
Defensive
Player of the Week/Month
Special Teams
Player of the Week/Month
AFC NFC AFC NFC AFC NFC
1[108] DeAngelo Williams
(Steelers)
Jameis Winston
(Buccaneers)
Whitney Mercilus
(Texans)
Eric Kendricks
(Vikings)
Stephen Gostkowski
(Patriots)
Sam Martin
(Lions)
2[109] Ryan Fitzpatrick
(Jets)
Stefon Diggs
(Vikings)
Von Miller
(Broncos)
Marcus Cooper
(Cardinals)
Lawrence Guy
(Ravens)
Janoris Jenkins
(Giants)
3[110] Trevor Siemian
(Broncos)
Carson Wentz
(Eagles)
Marcus Peters
(Chiefs)
Everson Griffen
(Vikings)
Ryan Allen
(Patriots)
Dustin Hopkins
(Redskins)
Sept.[111] LeGarrette Blount
(Patriots)
Matt Ryan
(Falcons)
Von Miller
(Broncos)
Fletcher Cox
(Eagles)
Justin Tucker
(Ravens)
Dustin Hopkins
(Redskins)
4[112] Ben Roethlisberger
(Steelers)
Julio Jones
(Falcons)
Zach Brown
(Bills)
Aaron Donald
(Rams)
Will Fuller
(Texans)
Jon Ryan
(Seahawks)
5[113] Tom Brady
(Patriots)
David Johnson
(Cardinals)
Nickell Robey-Coleman
(Bills)
Darius Slay
(Lions)
Adam Vinatieri
(Colts)
Jamison Crowder
(Redskins)
6[114] Jay Ajayi
(Dolphins)
Odell Beckham Jr.
(Giants)
Dont'a Hightower
(Patriots)
David Irving
(Cowboys)
Drew Kaser
(Chargers)
Wil Lutz
(Saints)
7[115] Jay Ajayi
(Dolphins)
Davante Adams
(Packers)
Denzel Perryman
(Chargers)
Landon Collins
(Giants)
Marquette King
(Raiders)
Josh Huff
(Eagles)
8[116] Derek Carr
(Raiders)
Jordan Howard
(Bears)
Bradley Roby
(Broncos)
Star Lotulelei
(Panthers)
Shane Lechler
(Texans)
Wil Lutz
(Saints)
Oct.[117] Tom Brady
(Patriots)
David Johnson
(Cardinals)
Lorenzo Alexander
(Bills)
Cliff Avril
(Seahawks)
Adam Vinatieri
(Colts)
Matt Bryant
(Falcons)
9[118] Melvin Gordon
(Chargers)
Matt Ryan
(Falcons)
Khalil Mack
(Raiders)
Landon Collins
(Giants)
Jordan Todman
(Colts)
Matt Prater
(Lions)
10[119] Marcus Mariota
(Titans)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Eric Berry
(Chiefs)
Kam Chancellor
(Seahawks)
Justin Simmons
(Broncos)
Johnny Hekker
(Rams)
11[120] Tom Brady
(Patriots)
Kirk Cousins
(Redskins)
Stephon Tuitt
(Steelers)
Xavier Rhodes
(Vikings)
Dan Carpenter
(Bills)
Roberto Aguayo
(Buccaneers)
12[121] Tyreek Hill
(Chiefs)
Mark Ingram
(Saints)
Khalil Mack
(Raiders)
Jason Pierre-Paul
(Giants)
Justin Tucker
(Ravens)
Matt Prater
(Lions)
Nov.[122] Marcus Mariota
(Titans)
Kirk Cousins
(Redskins)
Khalil Mack
(Raiders)
Landon Collins
(Giants)
Cairo Santos
(Chiefs)
Matt Prater
(Lions)
13[123] Andrew Luck
(Colts)
David Johnson
(Cardinals)
Eric Berry
(Chiefs)
Akiem Hicks
(Bears)
Stephen Gostkowski
(Patriots)
Matt Prater
(Lions)
14[124] Le'Veon Bell
(Steelers)
Aaron Rodgers
(Packers)
Geno Atkins
(Bengals)
Vic Beasley
(Falcons)
Tyreek Hill
(Chiefs)
Brad Wing
(Giants)
15[125] Matt Moore
(Dolphins)
Devonta Freeman
(Falcons)
Bruce Irvin
(Raiders)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
(Packers)
Ryan Succop
(Titans)
Brad Wing
(Giants)
16[126] Jay Ajayi
(Dolphins)
Aaron Rodgers
(Packers)
Jalen Ramsey
(Jaguars)
Malcolm Jenkins
(Eagles)
Jamie Meder
(Browns)
Matt Bryant
(Falcons)
Dec.[127] Le'Veon Bell
(Steelers)
Aaron Rodgers
(Packers)
Quintin Demps
(Texans)
Vic Beasley
(Falcons)
Tyreek Hill
(Chiefs)
Johnny Hekker
(Rams)
17[128] Julian Edelman
(Patriots)
Matt Ryan
(Falcons)
Robert Mathis
(Colts)
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
(Giants)
Tyreek Hill
(Chiefs)
Bryan Anger
(Buccaneers)
Week FedEx Air
Player of the Week
(Quarterbacks)[129]
FedEx Ground
Player of the Week
(Running Backs)[129]
Pepsi Next
Rookie of the Week[130]
Castrol Edge
Clutch Performer
of the Week[131]
1 Jameis Winston
(Buccaneers)
DeAngelo Williams
(Steelers)
Carson Wentz
(Eagles)
Derek Carr
(Raiders)
2 Philip Rivers
(Chargers)
Matt Forte
(Jets)
Corey Coleman
(Browns)
Marcus Mariota
(Titans)
3 Trevor Siemian
(Broncos)
LeSean McCoy
(Bills)
Carson Wentz
(Eagles)
Su'a Cravens
(Redskins)
4 Matt Ryan
(Falcons)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Dak Prescott
(Cowboys)
Derek Carr
(Raiders)
5 Ben Roethlisberger
(Steelers)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Carson Wentz
(Eagles)
Roberto Aguayo
(Buccaneers)
6 Drew Brees
(Saints)
Jay Ajayi
(Dolphins)
Jatavis Brown
(Chargers)
Odell Beckham Jr.
(Giants)
7 Aaron Rodgers
(Packers)
Jay Ajayi
(Dolphins)
Joey Bosa
(Chargers)
Denzel Perryman
(Chargers)
8 Derek Carr
(Raiders)
Jordan Howard
(Bears)
Dak Prescott
(Cowboys)
Derek Carr
(Raiders)
9 Drew Brees
(Saints)
Latavius Murray
(Raiders)
Dak Prescott
(Cowboys)
Melvin Gordon
(Chargers)
10 Marcus Mariota
(Titans)
DeMarco Murray
(Titans)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
11 Kirk Cousins
(Redskins)
Rob Kelley
(Redskins)
Dak Prescott
(Cowboys)
Amari Cooper
(Raiders)
12 Drew Brees
(Saints)
Mark Ingram
(Saints)
Noah Spence
(Buccaneers)
Derek Carr
(Raiders)
13 Joe Flacco
(Ravens)
Latavius Murray
(Raiders)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Khalil Mack
(Raiders)
14 Aaron Rodgers
(Packers)
Le'Veon Bell
(Steelers)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Keith Tandy
(Buccaneers)
15 Matt Ryan
(Falcons)
Devonta Freeman
(Falcons)
Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Sebastian Janikowski
(Raiders)
16 Aaron Rodgers
(Packers)
Jay Ajayi
(Dolphins)
Dak Prescott
(Cowboys)
Antonio Brown
(Steelers)
17 Matt Ryan
(Falcons)
Isaiah Crowell
(Browns)
Tyreek Hill
(Chiefs)
Mike Evans
(Buccaneers)
Month Rookie of the Month
Offensive Defensive
Sept.[132] Carson Wentz
(Eagles)
Deion Jones
(Falcons)
Oct.[133] Ezekiel Elliott
(Cowboys)
Joey Bosa
(Chargers)
Nov.[134] Dak Prescott
(Cowboys)
Noah Spence
(Buccaneers)
Dec.[135] Jordan Howard
(Bears)
Joey Bosa
(Chargers)

Stadiums

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons played their 25th and final season at the Georgia Dome, with the team's new home field, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, slated to open in 2017.[136]

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings played their first season at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Construction on the team's new home field in downtown Minneapolis wrapped up at the start of the 2016 season. The new stadium is built on the site of the Vikings' former home, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was demolished after the 2013 season.[137]

Relocation of the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles

The league scheduled a vote on whether to relocate one or two of its existing franchises to the Los Angeles metropolitan area on January 12, 2016. The league set a relocation fee of $550 million for any team who is approved to relocate.[138] On January 4, three teams filed to relocate to Los Angeles: the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and the St. Louis Rams, all three of which had previously resided in the city at various points in their history.[139] Despite the Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities recommending the Raiders' and Chargers' joint proposal for a stadium in Carson, California, on January 12, the league approved the Rams' proposal to relocate to Inglewood after three ballots, also giving the Chargers the option to share the Rams' stadium if they so choose. In the first two rounds of voting, Inglewood led Carson 21-11 and 20-12 respectively; by the third ballot, the Rams proposal had received effectively unanimous support from the other owners, with the final vote reaching 30-2 (the Raiders and Chargers themselves casting the lone opposing votes).[140] The Rams will play the first four seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, while their new stadium is being built in Inglewood. The Rams previously played at the Coliseum during their first stint in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1979.

Rams bid for Los Angeles

The Rams and the St. Louis CVC (Convention & Visitors Commission) began negotiating deals to get the Rams' home stadium, The Dome at America's Center (then known as Edward Jones Dome), into the top 25 percent of stadiums in the league (i.e., top eight teams of the thirty-two NFL teams in reference to luxury boxes, amenities and overall fan experience). Under the terms of the lease agreement, the St. Louis CVC was required to make modifications to the Edward Jones Dome in 2005. However, then-owner, Georgia Frontiere, waived the provision in exchange for cash that served as a penalty for the city's noncompliance. The City of St. Louis, in subsequent years, made changes to the score board and increased the natural lighting by replacing panels with windows, although the overall feel remains dark. The minor renovations which totaled about $70 million did not bring the stadium within the specifications required under the lease agreement.

On February 1, 2013, a three-person arbitral tribunal selected to preside over the arbitration process found that the Edward Jones Dome was not in the top 25% of all NFL venues as required under the terms of the lease agreement between the Rams and the CVC. The tribunal further found that the estimated $700 million in proposed renovations by the Rams was not unreasonable given the terms of the lease agreement. Finally, the city of St. Louis was ordered to pay the Rams attorneys' fees which totaled a reported $2 million.

Publicly, city, county and state officials expressed no interest in providing further funding to the Edward Jones Dome in light of those entities, as well as taxpayers, continuing to owe approximately $300 million more on that facility. As such, if a resolution is not reached by the end of the 2014-2015 NFL season and the City of St. Louis remains non-compliant in its obligations under the lease agreement, the Rams would be free to nullify their lease and relocate.

On January 31, 2014, both the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to the Forum in Inglewood, California. It would be, by the most conservative estimates, sufficient land on which a NFL-proper stadium may be constructed. The purchase price was rumored to have been between US$90-100 million. Commissioner Roger Goodell represented that Mr. Kroenke informed the league of the purchase. As an NFL owner, any purchase of land in which a potential stadium could be built must be disclosed to the league. This development further fueled rumors that the Rams intended to return its management and football operations to Southern California. The land was initially targeted for a Walmart Supercenter but Walmart could not get the necessary permits to build the center. Kroenke is married to Ann Walton Kroenke who is a member of the Walton family and many of Kroenke's real estate deals have involved Walmart properties.[141][142][143] On January 5, 2015, The Los Angeles Times reported that Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and Stockbridge Capital Group were partnering up into developing a new NFL Stadium on property owned by Kroenke. The project will include a stadium of up to 80,000 seats and a performance venue of 6,000 seats while reconfiguring the previously approved Hollywood Park plan for up to 890,000 square feet of retail, 780,000 square feet of office space, 2,500 new residential units, a 300-room hotel and 25 acres of public parks, playgrounds, open space and pedestrian and bicycle access. The stadium is likely to be ready by 2020, In lieu of this the city of St. Louis responded on January 9, 2015, by unveiling an outdoor, open air, riverfront stadium that can accommodate the Rams and an MLS team with the hope that the NFL bylaws can force them to stay. On February 24, 2015, the Inglewood City Council approved the stadium and the initiative with construction on the stadium planned to begin in December 2015. On December 21, 2015, Construction was officially underway at the Hollywood Park site for the stadium. On January 4, 2016, after St. Louis finished last in per-game attendance for the 2015 season,[144] the team filed a relocation application to relocate to Los Angeles and informed the NFL about this and released a statement on their website.

On January 12, 2016, the NFL owners approved the Inglewood proposal and the Rams' relocation by a 30-2 vote; the Rams relocated almost immediately thereafter.[145]

Raiders and Chargers failed stadium bid

On February 19, 2015, the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers announced plans for a privately financed $1.7 billion stadium that the two teams would build in Carson, California if they were to move to the Los Angeles market.[146] Such a move would have marked a return to the nation's second-largest market for both teams; the Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 while the Chargers called LA home for their inaugural season in the American Football League. The Chargers were the only NFL team to play in Southern California at the time (until the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016), with San Diego being a 125-mile (201 km) distance from Los Angeles, and the Chargers counted Los Angeles as a secondary market. The Chargers have been looking to replace Qualcomm Stadium (which, like the Oakland Coliseum opened in the late 1960s) since at least 2003, and have had an annual out clause in which it can move in exchange for paying a fine to the city of San Diego for its remaining years on its lease. The Raiders, meanwhile, have been operating on year-to-year leases with Oakland Coliseum, the stadium it has shared with the Oakland Athletics for most of its time in Oakland, California, since the last long-term lease on that stadium ended in 2013.[147]

Due to both television contracts and NFL bylaws, had both of the longstanding division rivals moved to LA, one of the teams would have been required to move to the NFC West, something that Mark Davis volunteered the Raiders to be willing to do. The Raiders moving to the National Football Conference would have been considered ironic seeing that Davis's father Al Davis was a staunch opponent of the NFL during its rivalry and eventual merger with the AFL. If such a scenario happened, a current NFC West team would have taken their spot in the AFC West. The early rumor was that the Seattle Seahawks, who played in the AFC West from 1977 to 2001, would have been the favorite to have switched conferences with the Raiders. However, that team's growing rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers had pointed to either the Arizona Cardinals or the then-St. Louis Rams switching conferences to take the Raiders' spot in the AFC West. Had the Rams stayed in St. Louis, switching them to the AFC would have allowed for a yearly home-and-home with the cross-state Kansas City Chiefs.[148] As a portion of the Rams' 2016 schedule was already set because of their International Series appearance, the league could not realign until at least 2017.

On October 23, 2015, Mark Fabiani, Chargers spokesperson confirmed that the team planned to officially notify the NFL about its intentions to relocate to Los Angeles in January during the timetable when teams can request to relocate.[149] On January 4, 2016, both teams filed relocation applications for relocation to Los Angeles. On January 12, 2016, the NFL voted to allow the Rams move to Los Angeles and the Inglewood proposal, effectively rejecting and killing the Carson proposal. The Chargers were then given the option to join the Rams in Inglewood in 2016, with the Raiders having the option in 2017 if the Chargers declined; the Chargers announced on January 29 that they would remain in San Diego for the 2016 season as negotiations continued, but that if negotiations ultimately failed, they had reached an agreement in principle with the Rams to join them in Los Angeles once the Inglewood stadium is complete.[150] The Raiders reached an agreement on another one-year lease extension with Oakland Coliseum on February 11, 2016, keeping the team in Oakland for one more season.

The Raiders, having previously explored San Antonio, Texas as a potential relocation site in 2014, moved on to other potential relocation sites after the rejection of the Carson proposal, focusing on a stadium plan in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. On August 25, 2016, the Raiders applied for a trademark for the "Las Vegas Raiders" and unveiled artist renditions of the proposed Las Vegas stadium, given the tentative title "Raiders Stadium."[151]

Naming rights agreements

Buffalo Bills

On August 13, the Buffalo Bills and Pegula Sports and Entertainment reached an agreement to sell the naming rights to their stadium to the locally based New Era Cap Company, a major headwear supplier to all of the major North American sports leagues. The stadium had previously been known as Rich Stadium from its opening in 1973, then as Ralph Wilson Stadium since 1998. The sale of naming rights came as somewhat of a surprise, as previous owner Ralph Wilson was firmly against selling the naming rights to the stadium and there were few companies in Western New York believed to have the money to pay the naming rights fee for an NFL stadium.[152]

Miami Dolphins

Canadian-based financial services company Sun Life Financial had held the naming rights to the Miami Dolphins' stadium since 2010, a deal which expired in the offseason. The team already announced that it was not going to renew the license.[153] On August 16, 2016, it was reported that Hard Rock Cafe purchased the naming rights to the stadium, with the venue to be renamed Hard Rock Stadium.[154]

Oakland Raiders

On April 2, the O.co Coliseum, home of the Oakland Raiders, reverted to its previous identity as the Oakland Alameda Coliseum. Online retailer Overstock.com held the naming rights to the Raiders' home field since 2011,[155] but opted out of the naming rights agreement, though it will continue to maintain its corporate sponsorship with the Athletics. The Raiders' home field has undergone numerous name changes in its history, including Network Associates Coliseum (1998-2004) and McAfee Coliseum (2004-2008).[156]

Field surface changes

Baltimore Ravens

On December 2, 2015, the Baltimore Ravens announced a change in the surface at M&T Bank Stadium from their previous Shaw Sportexe Momentum 51 artificial turf to natural Bermuda grass for the first time since the 2001 season, by player preference for a natural surface.[157] The field was replaced beginning on February 4, 2016, timed to be installed by the start of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse season.[158]

New uniforms and patches

After a trial run in 2015, the NFL Color Rush program returned for 2016 with all 32 NFL teams required to participate.[159] To prevent issues with color blindness from the previous season, the NFL is scheduled match-ups and where color blindness would not be an issue. The Color Rush games were during the Thursday Night Football contests.[160]

  • The San Francisco 49ers wore a patch to commemorate their 70th season.[161]
  • The New Orleans Saints wore a patch to commemorate their 50th season.[162]
  • The New York Giants wore white pants instead of gray for their primary home jerseys.[163]
  • The Los Angeles Rams joined the handful of teams (such as the Cowboys and the Dolphins) that primarily wear their white jerseys at home. The change comes as a nod to the team's Fearsome Foursome era (they will play in the same stadium as those teams) and to accommodate the warmer climate of Los Angeles. The uniform itself will remain the same as it was in the last years in St. Louis.[164]
  • The Miami Dolphins wore aqua for some of their home games in 2016 that include daytime.[165]
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers retired their 1934 throwback uniforms after the 2016 season. The Steelers wore them for the last time on October 9, 2016 against the New York Jets.[166]
  • The Atlanta Falcons wore 1966 throwback uniforms against the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers. The throwback uniforms are an altered version of the ones used from 2009-2012.[167]
  • The Washington Redskins wore burgundy pants with their white jerseys[168] and temporarily place gray facemasks on their helmets when wearing the 1937 throwback uniforms.

Media

Broadcast rights

This was the third season under broadcast contracts with ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC. This includes "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season (regardless of the conference of the visiting team). NBC will continue to air Sunday Night Football, the annual Kickoff game, and the primetime Thanksgiving game. ESPN will continue airing Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl. Fox will serve as the broadcaster of Super Bowl LI.

Flexible scheduling

A change to the flexible scheduling rule takes effect for the 2016 season: in week 17, any game can be flexed into Sunday Night Football, regardless of how many times a team had been featured on a primetime game that season. This change can, theoretically, allow a game with playoff implications in the final week of the season to be moved to primetime for greater prominence.[169] As in 2015, the NFL will continue the "suspension" of its blackout policy, meaning that all games will be broadcast in their home markets regardless of ticket sales; Goodell stated that the league needed to continue investigating the impact of removing the blackout rules before such a change is made permanent.[170]

Thursday Night Football

The league's contract with CBS for Thursday Night Football expired after the 2015 season and was placed back up for bids.[171] On February 1, 2016, the NFL announced that Thursday Night Football would be shared between CBS, NBC, and NFL Network for the 2016 season. CBS and NBC will each air five games, which will be simulcast by NFL Network, along with an additional eight games exclusively on NFL Network, the production of which will be split between the two networks. Commissioner Roger Goodell that the league was "thrilled to add NBC to the Thursday Night Football mix, a trusted partner with a proven track record of success broadcasting NFL football in primetime, and look forward to expanding with a digital partner for what will be a unique tri-cast on broadcast, cable and digital platforms."[172] On April 5, 2016, it was announced that Twitter had acquired non-exclusive worldwide digital streaming rights to the 10 broadcast television TNF games, including to mobile devices (this is the first time any NFL games have been made available to mobile devices not subscribed to Verizon Wireless, whose NFL Mobile app holds exclusive rights to all other games). This partnership will also include content for Twitter's live streaming service Periscope, such as behind-the-scenes access.[173]

Internet streaming for International Series

After 2015's Bills-Jaguars International Series contest was a modest success, the league was initially expected to make all three of the 2016 London games exclusive to the Internet. Yahoo! Screen, which carried the 2015 contest, shut down in January 2016;[174] the bidders on the three games (which may or may not go to the same broadcaster) included YouTube and Apple TV, both of which bid on the 2015 game but were passed up in favor of Yahoo!'s bid.[175] Ultimately, the league decided not to make the International Series games Web-exclusive, instead focusing its efforts on the Thursday Night Football partnership with Twitter.[176]

Personnel changes

Mike Tirico, the lead play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football, announced his departure from ESPN on May 9, 2016; he joins NBC, where he was originally designated to lead the network's broadcast team for Thursday Night Football telecasts. Replacing Tirico on MNF is Sean McDonough.[177] The move was initially reported in April but not confirmed until the next month.[178] However, shortly before the start of the regular season, the league exercised a clause in its television contract with NBC demanding that any broadcast team that calls Sunday Night Football also call Thursday Night Football as well, effectively forcing Al Michaels to call both packages unless he and Tirico also split Sundays (this was the scenario that was ultimately chosen; on most weeks when Michaels calls a Thursday game, Tirico will call Sundays).[179] This is also the final season Chris Berman serves as a studio analyst for ESPN's NFL programming; Berman has been with ESPN since the network's inception in 1979.[180] This would also end up being Phil Simms' last season as lead color commentator for the NFL on CBS. Tony Romo, who would retire at the end of this season, would replace Simms as lead color commentator on CBS. Simms will join The NFL Today next season. This would also lead to Tony Gonzalez and Bart Scott, leaving The NFL Today. Gonzalez will now be on Fox NFL Kickoff. Replacing Gonzalez and Scott will be Simms and Nate Burleson, who comes over from NFL Network's football morning talk show, Good Morning Football, although he will remain with the show. This would also be the last season for Solomon Wilcots at CBS. James Lofton from Westwood One, will replace Wilcots next season. Meanwhile, at Fox, this would be the last season for John Lynch, who would leave to be the next general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. Replacing Lynch next season, would be Charles Davis who would move up from the #4 team at Fox to join Kevin Burkhardt at the end of this season.

Television viewers and ratings

Most watched regular season games

Rank Date Matchup Network Viewers (millions) TV rating [181] Window Significance
1 November 24, 4:30 ET Washington Redskins 26 Dallas Cowboys 31 Fox 35.1 14.5 Thanksgiving Cowboys-Redskins Rivalry
2 November 13, 4:25 ET Dallas Cowboys 35 Pittsburgh Steelers 30 28.9 16.4 Late DH[a] Cowboys-Steelers Rivalry
3 October 16, 4:25 ET Dallas Cowboys 30 Green Bay Packers 16 28.0 15.8 Late DH[b] Ice Bowl Rematch
4 November 24, 12:30 ET Minnesota Vikings 13 Detroit Lions 16 CBS 27.6 13.0 Thanksgiving Lions-Vikings Rivalry
5 September 11, 4:25 ET New York Giants 20 Dallas Cowboys 19 Fox 27.5 15.5 Late DH[c] Cowboys-Giants Rivalry
6 December 11, 8:30 ET Dallas Cowboys 7 New York Giants 10 NBC 26.5 14.9 SNF Cowboys-Giants Rivalry
7 December 4, 4:25 ET New York Giants 14 Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Fox 25.4 14.6 Late DH[d]
8 September 8, 8:30 ET Carolina Panthers 20 Denver Broncos 21 NBC 25.2 14.6 Kickoff Game Super Bowl 50 Rematch
9 December 11, 4:25 ET Seattle Seahawks 10 Green Bay Packers 38 Fox 25.2 14.4 Late DH[e]
10 December 18, 4:25 ET New England Patriots 16 Denver Broncos 3 CBS 25.0 14.2 Late DH[f] AFC Championship Rematch

*Note -- Late DH matchups listed in table are the matchups that were shown to the largest percentage of the market.

  1. ^ DAL/PIT was shown in 92% of the markets during the late doubleheader time slot of Fox coverage.
  2. ^ DAL/GB was shown in 86% of the markets during the late doubleheader time slot of Fox coverage.
  3. ^ NYG/DAL was shown in 90% of the markets during the late doubleheader time slot of Fox coverage.
  4. ^ NYG/PIT was shown in 85% of the markets during the late doubleheader time slot of Fox coverage.
  5. ^ SEA/GB was shown in 67% of the markets during the late doubleheader time slot of Fox coverage.
  6. ^ NE/DEN was shown in 83% of the markets during the late doubleheader time slot of CBS coverage.

Attendance statistics

Team Stadium Home games Average attendance Total attendance Capacity percentage
Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium 8 92,539* 740,318 115.7%[182]
New York Giants MetLife Stadium 8 78,789 630,315 95.5%
Washington Redskins FedExField 8 78,304 626,432 85.4%
Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field 8 78,215 625,727 107.3%
New York Jets MetLife Stadium 8 78,160 625,280 94.7%
Denver Broncos Sports Authority Field at Mile High 8 76,774 614,193 100.9%
Los Angeles Rams Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 7 74,121 74,121 89.8%
Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium 8 73,792 590,343 100.0%
Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium 8 73,328 586,624 95.5%
New Orleans Saints Mercedes-Benz Superdome 8 73,109 584,876 100.2%
Houston Texans NRG Stadium 8 71,868 574,947 101.1%
Baltimore Ravens M&T Bank Stadium 8 71,102 568,823 100.1%
San Francisco 49ers Levi's Stadium 8 70,178 561,424 102.4%
Atlanta Falcons Georgia Dome 8 69,999 559,998 98.2%
Philadelphia Eagles Lincoln Financial Field 8 69,596 556,768 103.0%
Seattle Seahawks CenturyLink Field 8 69,073 552,588 103.1%
Buffalo Bills Ralph Wilson Stadium 8 68,509 548,073 93.7%
New England Patriots Gillette Stadium 8 66,829 534,632 97.2%
Minnesota Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium 8 66,786 534,289 91.5%
Indianapolis Colts Lucas Oil Stadium 8 65,549 524,393 104.0%
Miami Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium 8 78,160 524,101 100.3%
Arizona Cardinals University of Phoenix Stadium 8 64,831 518,652 102.3%
Tennessee Titans Nissan Stadium 8 64,659 517,273 93.5%
Pittsburgh Steelers Heinz Field 8 64,312 514,503 98.9%
Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium 8 64,311 514,489 87.9%
Jacksonville Jaguars EverBank Field 7 61,915 433,408 92.2%
Detroit Lions Ford Field 8 60,792 486,342 94.3%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium 8 60,624 484,998 92.3%
Cincinnati Bengals Paul Brown Stadium 7 60,511 423,583 92.4%
Chicago Bears Soldier Field 8 60,368 482,951 98.2%
San Diego Chargers Qualcomm Stadium 8 57,024 456,197 80.0%
Oakland Raiders O.co Coliseum 7 54,584 382,088 86.6%

*80,000 without party pass areas

Source:[183]

Notes

  1. ^ The Oilers received approval to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee in 1997, but elected to play at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis for one season while the Nashville venue now known as Nissan Stadium was under construction.

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