Week 1 of the NFL season is always greeted with anticipation, but it's these games that really matter.
Teams that find a way to win down the stretch will prove themselves to the league, their fans and themselves. That's important if you want to make any noise in the postseason.
Not every team will have what it takes to finish the year strong. Those that do will have a leg up on the competition in January.
Let's power rank the NFL teams and focus on a few that will make a strong closing push.
1. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta has struggled lately, and it must face Tampa Bay twice before the year is over. Throw in another hard-fought game against New Orleans, and this team will be tested before the playoffs arrive.
2. Houston Texans
Houston is going to struggle more than it has all season. With four road games and four games against teams that are above .500, don't look for the Texans to coast through to the end.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are going to romp through their second-half schedule, with possible tests against the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears being the only things standing in their way.
Green Bay is clicking on all cylinders. Aaron Rodgers is throwing the ball with stunning efficiency, and he has healthy weapons to work with on the outside.
Because of the offense's big-play ability, the defense doesn't have to do much. It's not as big of a liability as it was last season, but it 's still not a unit you want to lean on in a pinch.
As long as Rodgers is behind center, this team has a chance. He's still the best quarterback in the league, and that counts for a lot in the playoffs.
4. New England Patriots
New England will be tested by Houston and San Francisco in Weeks 14 and 15, but the Patriots should finish strong otherwise.
Dismantling the Colts on Sunday made this team look scary. Tom Brady is still terrific, but he also has a ground game to lean on this year. With Stevan Ridley behind him, expect Brady to keep putting up big numbers.
Defensively, this team must work on stopping big plays through the air, but its run defense is stout. As long as that continues, the defense won't be as big of an issue as it was last year.
With Brady running the show, this team will be just fine. Come playoff time, I wouldn't want to see them staring back at me.
5. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers will do just fine with their swarming defense and their dominant run game. A decisive Monday night win showed how tough this team truly is.
6. Denver Broncos
The Broncos face an easy schedule to close the year, and Peyton Manning is doing his thing once again.
With Manning tossing touchdowns, leading late-game comebacks and breaking every other team's heart, this squad will be tough to beat.
On top of that, he's never had a defense backing him like this. A ferocious pass rush makes this defensive unit tough to stop, and the secondary isn't bad either.
As long as the offensive line keeps Manning upright, this team is going to be tough to stop. That doesn't just go for now, that goes for the playoffs as well.
Keep an eye on these guys.
7. Baltimore Ravens
With three road games left on the schedule, it's hard to tell how Baltimore will finish. Going 3-3 isn't inconceivable.
8. Chicago Bears
It all depends on Jay Cutler. However, this team has only beaten one team that currently has a winning record. That game? Andrew Luck's first career NFL start.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh's late-season schedule is easy enough, but too many injuries make the path difficult for this team leading up to a possible playoff berth.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I'd say a strong push, but this team is already in the midst of theirs. A four-game win streak has this team looking
11. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota still faces stiff challenges to close the year. Without a capable supporting cast for Adrian Peterson, don't expect much.
12. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts' embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots could set them on a terrible road to close the season.
13. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle could go 3-3 or worse. It depends on how well it uses CenturyLink Field to its advantage.
14. New York Giants
This team is playing poorly right now, but it's hard to tell how they'll finish. They usually save their best for when it matters the most.
15. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans faces San Francisco and Atlanta in its next two games, but any win is possible at this point. Drew Brees has been outstanding behind center, matriculating the ball down the field as consistently as ever.
The Saints defense is still weak, but with an offense like this, it doesn't necessarily matter. Brees can score as many times as he touches it.
The Saints have to catch the magic to keep winning. With three consecutive victories already lined up, that magic is already in motion.
This team should scare everyone right now. They have nothing to lose and a ton of pride to save.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals could jump the Steelers in he AFC North, but that has more to do with Ben Roethlisberger's injury than anything else.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas will win one, then lose one, then win one, then lose one, because that's just what the Cowboys do.
18. Detroit Lions
Houston. Green Bay. Atlanta. Chicago. Needless to say, with those four teams on the docket, clear sailing does not lie ahead for the Lions.
19. Washington Redskins
Baltimore is the only game that screams loss on their remaining schedule, but this team won't sniff the playoffs either way.
20. New York Jets
The Jets don't even seem to care about what happens on the field, making a late push impossible.
21. Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller will wreak havoc on run defenses until the year is over, but this team just doesn't have what it takes. Too many holes in key places equal another disappointing season in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
22. San Diego Chargers
San Diego doesn't even know what second-half push means.
23. Tennessee Titans
The Titans show flashes of brilliance on offense, but this defense is still atrocious. Without help from the other side of the ball, Chris Johnson and Co. stand no chance.
24. Miami Dolphins
Miami looked like it was ready to make an unlikely run, but fell apart instead. Still, good things are coming for this group.
25. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona isn't ever going to make a push of any kind without a quarterback. The same would go for any team.
26. St. Louis Rams
St. Louis is a fine team with better days ahead, but I'm still not sure if Sam Bradford is the guy to lead the Rams to where they want to go.
27. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders had their chance to make a push, but fell apart instead. Now, this just looks like another Oakland team.
28. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland is definitely improving and will give a stiff challenge to better teams down the stretch, but it's hard to see its push being "strong."
29. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles couldn't figure themselves out long enough to make a second-half push, even if they wanted too.
30. Carolina Panthers
A rare breakout game from Cam Newton makes this team tough to stop at times, but don't expect it very often.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars showed their stuff on Sunday, taking the Texans to overtime, but this team is going nowhere fast.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
It doesn't matter who the Chiefs play. This team isn't going to finish well.
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