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What we learned in the first half of Week 16

The penultimate week of the NFL season has already ended a team's dreams, and guaranteed a few playoff berths. Here's what we learned during the early set of games Sunday.

  1. The Saints' disastrous season hit its nadir Sunday in a home loss to the Falcons, eliminating them from contention. The defeat had so many elements to the Saints' confounding year: A backbreaking Drew Brees pick, a poor effort from Jimmy Graham, and the lack of a pass rush. The Saints' defense actually played well enough to win, but New Orleans somehow lost a fifth straight home game.
  1. The Falcons will host Carolina next week to decide the NFC South champion. The Panthers got their first win out of the division since Week 5 on Sunday with a 17-13 victory over Cleveland. Wouldn't it be insane of the Panthers were the first repeat NFC South champion despite a seven-win record?
  1. The Browns are going to have a difficult time evaluating Johnny Manziel's play this year. He left Sunday's game in the first half with a hamstring injury, and was not able to return. Manziel did virtually nothing positive in his two starts this season.
  1. Three divisions will be decided in head-to-head matchups next week, including Lions-Packers. Green Bay and Detroit both took care of business on Sunday, even if they didn't look pretty on the way. Matthew Stafford had two more interceptions against the Bears on Sunday, and the Lions offense continues to not look like a playoff-ready group.
  1. The other division that will be up for grabs next week? The AFC North when Pittsburgh and Cincinnati face off. That's because Houston handed Baltimore the most painful loss of the day on Sunday. The Ravens managed to lose to Case Keenum and the Texans despite Keenum just re-joining the team this week. Bill O'Brien has done an incredible job keeping Houston alive heading into Week 17 at 8-7, although they'd need a lot of help to get in.
  1. We learned Sunday morning that the Dolphins wouldn't make the playoffs, but they are going to keep their coach after a 37-35 victory over Minnesota. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced after the game that Joe Philbin would be back as head coach next season.
  1. The Jets aren't nearly as bad as their 3-12 record indicates, but they find new and excruciating ways to inflict pain on their fans each week. With a chance to beat their rival Patriots in Rex Ryan's New Jersey swan song, New York narrowly lost a fine effort. They have lost by one score seven times. New England earned a bye week for a record fifth straight season.

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