Week 16 of the 2014 NFL season answered several lingering questions. Playoff berths were clinched, homefield advantage was locked up for one team, and several players had big-time performances. Here is a look at five significant takeaways from Week 16 of the 2014 NFL season.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
1. Rex Ryan can coach defense
Ryan was a missed field goal away from pulling off a stunning upset against the New England Patriots, his longtime AFC East nemesis. The Jets’ 17-16 loss to the Patriots in Week 16 was likely Ryan’s last shot at beating New England as the head coach of the Jets. In what has become the norm for the Jets during the Rex Ryan-era, they played an excellent game defensively, but struggled mightily on offense against the Patriots. Ryan’s defense held one of the top offenses in the league to a measly 231 yards of total offense and held quarterback Tom Brady to a 76.1 quarterback rating, his lowest quarterback rating since Week 4 of this year.
For all of the Jets’ offensive shortcomings during Ryan’s tenure as the team’s head coach, his squads have been almost equally as impressive on the defensive side of the ball. Given this, there is no doubting that Ryan will have his choice of defensive coordinator jobs around the league if the Jets do as expected and fire him after six years on the job.
2. Tony Romo is a serious MVP Candidate
In 2014, Romo has led the Dallas Cowboys to their first division title and playoff berth since 2009. Granted, he has benefited from playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and the team’s running game has kept opposing defenses off-balance all season. There is still no denying that Romo’s play has been the driving force behind the Cowboys’ success this season. He leads the league in several major quarterback statistics, including quarterback rating, and has been at his best during big games and in clutch situations. While he may not have done enough to beat out Aaron Rodgers for the prestigious award, he has definitely played himself into contention.
3. The Seattle Seahawks look like the best team in the league right now
The Seahawks dominated the Arizona Cardinals beating them 35-6 in Week 16 for their fifth-straight win. During their winning streak, the Seahawks have given up only 6.6 points per game, while rushing for 178 yards per game. Their average margin of victory during the streak has been 16.6 points per game, and their turnover differential has been plus-four.
The Seahawks appear to be getting hot just at the right time and have played themselves into having a chance at locking up the top seed in the NFC playoffs with a win in Week 17. If they are able to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, we will very likely be seeing the Seahawks return to the Super Bowl to defend their title this February.
4. The road to the Super Bowl officially goes through New England
The Patriots survived a scare from the New York Jets, and the Denver Broncos lost to Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football giving New England the top seed in the AFC playoffs regardless of what happens this week.
5. Peyton Manning’s record-breaking career may be coming to an end sooner than everyone thought
Manning has made it clear that he intends to play beyond the 2014 season, and has even gone as far as saying that he will play until he “sucks.” Manning has been far from bad in 2014, but his play over the last month has made many people question exactly how much longer the 38-year-old, future-Hall of Fame signal caller will be able to keep playing. While he appears set on returning to the Broncos for at least one more season, the end may be near for one of the NFL’s all-time greats.