|Duration||September 8, 2016 – January 1, 2017|
|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|
|Champions||New England Patriots|
|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) and the 51st of the Super Bowl era. 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 in a rematch of the Super Bowl. The season concluded with Super Bowl LI, the league's championship game on February 5, 2017, at NRG Stadium in Houston 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,an NFL team relocated to another state, as the former St. Louis Rams moved out of St. Louis, Missouri and returned to Los Angeles, its home from 1946 to 1979 (Anaheim 1980–1994). For the first time since the 2003 NFL season, neither of the previous season's Super Bowl participants made the playoffs.
The 2016 season also was the last season for the San Diego Chargers after playing in San Diego for 56 years before their return to the city of Los Angeles for 2017, where the franchise was based in for their first season in 1960.
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.
A total of 496 players were eligible for some form of free agency at the beginning of the free agency period.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 notable players who changed teams via free agency were:
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.
The following rule changes were approved for the 2016 NFL season at the owners' meeting on March 22:
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.
The following changes to instant replay rules were approved for the 2016 NFL season at the owners' meeting on May 24:
Additional rule updates made for the 2016 season include:
The following people associated with the NFL (or AFL) died in 2016.
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.
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.
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, Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, 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.
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.
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:
The complete 2016 schedule was released on April 14, 2016. Highlights of the 2016 schedule included:
|1||New England Patriots||East||14||2||0||.875||5–1||11–1||.439||.424||W7|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||West||12||4||0||.750||6–0||9–3||.508||.479||W2|
|Did not qualify for the postseason|
|13||New York Jets||East||5||11||0||.313||2–4||4–8||.518||.313||W1|
|14||San Diego Chargers||West||5||11||0||.313||1–5||4–8||.543||.513||L5|
|4||Green Bay Packers||North||10||6||0||.625||5–1||8–4||.508||.453||W6|
|5||New York Giants||East||11||5||0||.688||4–2||8–4||.486||.455||W1|
|Did not qualify for the postseason|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||South||9||7||0||.563||4–2||7–5||.492||.434||W1|
|11||New Orleans Saints||South||7||9||0||.438||2–4||6–6||.523||.393||L1|
|14||Los Angeles Rams||West||4||12||0||.250||2–4||3–9||.504||.500||L7|
|16||San Francisco 49ers||West||2||14||0||.125||2–4||2–10||.504||.250||L1|
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.Super Bowl LI was held on February 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston on Fox.
|Jan. 8 – Heinz Field||Jan. 15 – Arrowhead Stadium|
|3||Pittsburgh||30||Jan. 22 – Gillette Stadium|
|Jan. 7 – NRG Stadium||3||Pittsburgh||17|
|Jan. 14 – Gillette Stadium|
|4||Houston||27||Feb. 5 – NRG Stadium|
|Wild Card playoffs|
|Jan. 8 – Lambeau Field||A1||New England||34*|
|Jan. 15 – AT&T Stadium|
|5||NY Giants||13||Super Bowl LI|
|4||Green Bay||38||Jan. 22 – Georgia Dome|
|Jan. 7 – CenturyLink Field||4||Green Bay||21|
|Jan. 14 – Georgia Dome|
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.
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.
|Scoring leader||Matt Bryant, Atlanta (158)|
|Most Field Goals Made||Justin Tucker, Baltimore (38 FGs)|
|Touchdowns||David Johnson, Arizona (20 TDs)|
|Rushing||Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas (1,631 yards)|
|Passing yards||Drew Brees, New Orleans (5,208 yards)|
|Passing touchdowns||Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (40 TDs)|
|Passer rating||Matt Ryan, Atlanta (117.1 rating)|
|Pass receptions||Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (107 catches)|
|Pass receiving yards||T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis (1,448 yards)|
|Combined tackles||Bobby Wagner, Seattle (168 tackles)|
|Interceptions||Casey Hayward, San Diego (7)|
|Punting||Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles (4,680 yards, 47.8 average yards)|
|Sacks||Vic Beasley, Atlanta (15.5)|
The 6th Annual NFL Honors, saluting the best players and plays from 2016 season, was held at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas on February 4, 2017.
|AP Most Valuable Player||Matt Ryan||Quarterback||Atlanta Falcons|
|AP Offensive Player of the Year||Matt Ryan||Quarterback||Atlanta Falcons|
|AP Defensive Player of the Year||Khalil Mack||Defensive end||Oakland Raiders|
|AP Coach of the Year||Jason Garrett||Head Coach||Dallas Cowboys|
|AP Assistant Coach of the Year||Kyle Shanahan||Offensive coordinator||Atlanta Falcons|
|AP Offensive Rookie of the Year||Dak Prescott||Quarterback||Dallas Cowboys|
|AP Defensive Rookie of the Year||Joey Bosa||Defensive end||San Diego Chargers|
|AP Comeback Player of the Year||Jordy Nelson||Wide receiver||Green Bay Packers|
|Pepsi Rookie of the Year||Dak Prescott||Quarterback||Dallas Cowboys|
|Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year|| Larry Fitzgerald |
| Arizona Cardinals |
New York Giants
|PFWA NFL Executive of the Year||Reggie McKenzie||General Manager||Oakland Raiders|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Tom Brady||Quarterback||New England Patriots|
The following players were named First Team All-Pro by the Associated Press:
|Placekicker||Justin Tucker, Baltimore|
|Punter||Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles|
|Kick returner||Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota|
|Special teams||Matthew Slater, New England|
The following were named the top performers during the 2016 season:
Player of the Week/Month
Player of the Week/Month
Player of the Week/Month
|1|| DeAngelo Williams |
| Jameis Winston |
| Whitney Mercilus |
| Eric Kendricks |
| Stephen Gostkowski |
| Sam Martin |
|2|| Ryan Fitzpatrick |
| Stefon Diggs |
| Von Miller |
| Marcus Cooper |
| Lawrence Guy |
| Janoris Jenkins |
|3|| Trevor Siemian |
| Carson Wentz |
| Marcus Peters |
| Everson Griffen |
| Ryan Allen |
| Dustin Hopkins |
|Sept.|| LeGarrette Blount |
| Matt Ryan |
| Fletcher Cox |
| Justin Tucker |
|4|| Ben Roethlisberger |
| Julio Jones |
| Zach Brown |
| Aaron Donald |
| Will Fuller |
| Jon Ryan |
|5|| Tom Brady |
| David Johnson |
| Nickell Robey-Coleman |
| Darius Slay |
| Adam Vinatieri |
| Jamison Crowder |
|6|| Jay Ajayi |
| Odell Beckham Jr. |
| Dont'a Hightower |
| David Irving |
| Drew Kaser |
| Wil Lutz |
| Davante Adams |
| Denzel Perryman |
| Landon Collins |
| Marquette King |
| Josh Huff |
|8|| Derek Carr |
| Jordan Howard |
| Bradley Roby |
| Star Lotulelei |
| Shane Lechler |
| Lorenzo Alexander |
| Cliff Avril |
| Matt Bryant |
|9|| Melvin Gordon |
| Khalil Mack |
| Jordan Todman |
| Matt Prater |
|10|| Marcus Mariota |
| Ezekiel Elliott |
| Eric Berry |
| Kam Chancellor |
| Justin Simmons |
| Johnny Hekker |
| Kirk Cousins |
| Stephon Tuitt |
| Xavier Rhodes |
| Dan Carpenter |
| Roberto Aguayo |
|12|| Tyreek Hill |
| Mark Ingram |
| Jason Pierre-Paul |
| Cairo Santos |
|13|| Andrew Luck |
| Akiem Hicks |
|14|| Le'Veon Bell |
| Aaron Rodgers |
| Geno Atkins |
| Vic Beasley |
| Tyreek Hill |
| Brad Wing |
|15|| Matt Moore |
| Devonta Freeman |
| Bruce Irvin |
| Ha Ha Clinton-Dix |
| Ryan Succop |
| Jalen Ramsey |
| Malcolm Jenkins |
| Jamie Meder |
| Quintin Demps |
|17|| Julian Edelman |
| Robert Mathis |
| Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie |
| Bryan Anger |
|Team||Departing coach||Interim coach||Incoming coach||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. |
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.
|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. |
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.
|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. 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 also was a former QB for the Eagles.
|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. |
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.
|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. Smith moved to the college ranks, becoming the head coach of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini football team.|
|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). For 2016, Whisenhunt joined the San Diego Chargers as offensive coordinator.|
|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. On January 14, McAdoo was promoted to head coach after serving as offensive coordinator with the team since 2014.|
|Team||2016 head coach||Reason for leaving||Interim replacement||Notes|
|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. 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. Marrone, the Jaguars' offensive line coach, was previously head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2013–14.|
|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, also was dismissed. 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.|
|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. |
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. |
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.
|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. Grier, Dolphins' director of college scouting, appointed as the new GM on January 5, 2016.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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. |
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.
The Atlanta Falcons played their 25th and final season at the Georgia Dome, with the team's new home field, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opened in 2017.
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 was built on the site of the Vikings' former home, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was demolished after the 2013 season.
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 that was approved to relocate. 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. 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 and gave the Chargers the option to share the Rams' stadium if they so chose. 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). The Rams played the first four seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, while their new stadium was built in Inglewood. The Rams had previously played at the Coliseum during their first stint in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1979.
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 remained 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 was not reached by the end of the 2014–2015 NFL season and the City of St. Louis remained non-compliant in its obligations under the lease agreement, the Rams were 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 had purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to the Forum in Inglewood, California. It was, by the most conservative estimates, sufficient land on which an NFL-sized stadium may be constructed. The purchase price was rumored to have been between US$90–100 million. Commissioner Roger Goodell represented that 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. On January 5, 2015, The Los Angeles Times reported that Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and Stockbridge Capital Group were partnering up to develop a new NFL stadium on property owned by Kroenke. The project included 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. In lieu of this the city of St. Louis responded on January 9, 2015, by unveiling an outdoor, open air, riverfront stadium that could have accommodated the Rams and an MLS team with the hope that the NFL bylaws would 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, the team filed a relocation application to relocate to Los Angeles 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.
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. 125-mile (201 km) distance from Los Angeles, and the Chargers counted Los Angeles as a secondary market. The Chargers had been looking to replace Qualcomm Stadium (which, like the Oakland Coliseum opened in the late 1960s) since at least 2003, and had an annual out clause in which it could move in exchange for paying a fine to the city of San Diego for its remaining years on its lease. The Raiders, meanwhile, had 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.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 Los Angeles 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
Due to both television contracts and NFL bylaws, had both of the longstanding division rivals moved to Los Angeles, 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 had happened, a NFC West team would have had to take 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 then 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.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.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 2017, with the Raiders having the option in 2018 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 was complete. 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."
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.
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.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.
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,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).
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.The field was replaced beginning on February 4, 2016, timed to be installed by the start of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse season.
After a trial run in 2015, the NFL Color Rush program returned for 2016 with all 32 NFL teams required to participate.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.
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.
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.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.
The league's contract with CBS for Thursday Night Football expired after the 2015 season and was placed back up for bids.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." 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.
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;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. 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.
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.The move was initially reported in April but not confirmed until the next month. 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). Tirico eventually got his chance the next season, when NBC announced he would replace Michaels after the NFL waived its broadcast team clause.
Tirico’s colleague at ESPN, Heather Cox, was also hired by NBC as their sideline reporter for Thursday Night Football, after Michele Tafoya opted out to spend more time with family, and to focus on SNF.
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.
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.
|Rank||Date||Matchup||Network||Viewers (millions)||TV rating||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]||Cowboys-Packers Rivalry|
|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.
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