2016 was a superb season for football. Though the TV ratings fell at the beginning of the season and many of the top teams faltered, the season was filled with intriguing storylines (Hello, Dallas) and a spectacular finish in Super Bowl LI. These are my top five takeaways from the 2016 NFL season.
- The Patriots are the dynasty of the 2010s
Every decade has seen its own NFL dynasty, but for the first time in modern history, the dynasty hasn’t been dethroned. The New England Patriots, who won three Super Bowls in a four-year span in the early 2000s, just won their second title in the last three years and are hands-down the best team of the 2010s. Not only is the title count (5) impressive, but the combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick has accounted for 11 conference championship games and have missed the playoffs just twice since 2001. Oh, and did I mention that we’re in the salary cap era, where parity is the goal and dynasties seem to be impossible. Tell that to the Patriots.
- I have a new favorite player, and he rhymes with Prak Descott
Back when the Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round, I wrote that he could be a home run pick. But not even I could imagine the rookie year Prescott had in 2016. The Mississippi State grad led the Cowboys to 13 victories, tied for the rookie record, and won Rookie of the Year as Dallas improved by nine wins over 2015. Prescott’s incredible poise, athleticism, and maturity have won me over and he’s the number one reason I’m excited about Dallas. Whenever I try to be cool and composed, I always think of Dak.
- I was dead wrong about the NFC
At the beginning of the year, I chose the Cowboys, Packers, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Panthers to make the playoffs, with the Cardinals winning the Big Game. Only three of those teams did reach the playoffs, and none of my picks reached the Super Bowl. The Panthers and Cardinals, who met in the NFC title game the previous year, both missed the playoffs with a combined 13 wins, while the Falcons, who I projected to finish with an 8-8 record, almost won the Super Bowl. I also whiffed on the Eagles, who I said would finish 2-14.
- The Pro Bowl can be saved
To clarify, I don’t mean the football game itself, but rather the whole weekend. The Skills Challenge returned to the Pro Bowl scene this year and, in my opinion, was a smash hit. The events capitalized on the excitement and personality of the top players in the league and nothing beat watching All-Star Dodgeball. That’s all I need in a Pro Bowl weekend.
- Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all-time
When Peyton Manning retired last year, I said that he was the Greatest of All Time, but one year later, I’ve changed my mind. The reason for the change wasn’t Brady’s historic fifth Super Bowl title, but a shift in my definition of greatest player of all-time. Before, I based the GOAT title off who I’d want most on my team, and today that player is still the eldest Manning brother. Now, I’ve decided that the GOAT title should be the player with the best career, and with his 5 Super Bowls, 11 AFC Championship Game appearances, four Super Bowl MVPs, and numerous other accolades and statistics, Brady deserves that title. To think that he still has a couple more years is scary and awesome, at the same time.