NFL Power Rankings: Teams That Must Close Regular Season on a Positive Note

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2012

Every NFL team wants to end the season on a high note, but a win in Week 17 means more to some than others.

Certain teams are relying on a win for their playoff hopes. Others simply need the confidence for next season.

No matter what, though, next week's games will be interesting. Seeding in each conference must be decided for the postseason, and the NFL draft order is up for grabs for everyone else.

Let's power rank the NFL teams and focus on a few that need to finish the year strong.


1. Denver Broncos

It could actually help the Broncos to lose a game. I'm beginning to wonder if they've peaked too soon.


2. New England Patriots

New England would probably feel better to close the year with a victory.

Not only would a win over the Dolphins keep the Patriots in the running for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but it would also give them a confidence boost.

After a disappointing loss to the 49ers in Week 15, the Patriots didn't wow anyone with a 23-16 win over Jacksonville on Sunday. Dealing the Dolphins a crushing defeat would ease some of those concerns.

It's important to carry momentum into the postseason, but the Patriots don't have much to speak of right now.


3. Atlanta Falcons

A win is always nice, but the Falcons have made a few resounding statements late in the season already.


4. Green Bay Packers

Green Bay would like home-field advantage, but everyone knows what to expect from this team, for better or worse.


5. Houston Texans

Houston has lost two of its last three games and could lose its grip on the AFC's No. 1 seed with a loss to the Colts on Sunday.

This game is huge for a few reasons. Not only does it impact playoff seeding, but the game comes against a potential playoff opponent.

If the Texans can't take care of business on Sunday, what's to say that they will in the postseason? That's a tough assumption to make.

Houston still boasts the blue-collar defense and dynamic run game, but its passing attack is causing issues right now. A big win would lay some of those concerns to rest at the right time.


6. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle needs a big win if they want a chance to win the NFC West, but this team has proved all that it needs to prove.

7. San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco should end the year on a positive note, and it needs it. Getting blown out by a division rival on prime-time television is going to sting every time.

The 49ers will clinch the NFC West with a win in their final game of the season. Lose, and the door is left open for the Seahawks to swoop in.

It's important for this team to prove itself offensively and also give Colin Kaepernick some confidence moving into the biggest games of his young career.

Another disastrous game could trickle into the playoffs.


8. Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore's positive note came against the Giants in Week 16, but another big win over the Bengals in the year's final game wouldn't hurt either.


9. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts' playoff seed is already locked in, and this team has all the positive energy that it needs.


10. Washington Redskins

Washington has won six in a row. Winning the NFC East on Sunday would certainly be a positive note, but this team has already accomplished more than expected.


11. Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati's most-positive note was captured with Sunday's last-second win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.


12. Minnesota Vikings

If Minnesota beats the Packers, it's in. If not, the Vikings need the Giants, Cowboys and Bears all to lose in order to make the postseason.

The Vikings need Adrian Peterson to carry them to one more big win on Sunday. It's hard to see this team making a deep postseason run, but at least they could say that they made the cut.

Minnesota's passing attack is still rough around the edges, and its defense is inconsistent, but Peterson has proved that he can win games on his own.


13. Chicago Bears

Chicago must beat the Lions, and the Packers must beat the Vikings. Anything less will find them on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

The Bears fell victim to an odd schedule. An extremely easy schedule in the first half of the season put them ahead of the curve, but the second half of the year was a reality check.

Chicago needs a confidence boost. Missing out on a playoff berth won't sit well with this storied franchise, tough schedule or not.


14. Dallas Cowboys

Dallas is lucky to be where it is now, but a win over the Redskins earns them the NFC East crown.


15. New York Giants

New York has completely fallen apart. A major domino effect must occur for Tom Coughlin's team to earn a playoff spot, and no win in the world will erase the recent losses from the minds of Giants fans.


16. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh's final game is a moot point. Anything short of a playoff berth is a failure in the Steel City, even if the team dealt with injuries all season long.


17. New Orleans Saints

The Saints have gotten better over the course of the season, and it's tough to judge considering all that the franchise has gone through.


18. Miami Dolphins

Miami has already exceeded expectations, playoff berth or not. Ryan Tannehill's play as a rookie is encouraging enough.


19. St. Louis Rams

The Rams are moving in the right direction. A win over the Seahawks would be nice, but this team isn't going to walk into CenturyLink Field and earn a win.


20. San Diego Chargers

Nothing, even a win, should save Norv Turner's job.


21. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers don't necessarily need a win as a team, but Cam Newton could use a big game to close the year. His confidence next season will be imperative to the team's success.


22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay has shown its youth. After entering Week 12 on a four-game winning streak, the team has lost five games in a row.


23. New York Jets

The Jets couldn't do anything positive right now if they tried. This team is a mess in more ways than one, and it should result in some wholesale changes this offseason.


24. Arizona Cardinals

Arizona needed a win before it lost nine in a row at one point this season. Now, it doesn't really matter.


25. Buffalo Bills

It would be nice for Bills fans to see this team muster six wins, but a high draft pick shouldn't sound too shabby either.


26. Detroit Lions

Detroit can't get out of its own way, and its problems can't just go away with one great performance. Beating the Bears seems unlikely anyway.


27. Cleveland Browns

The Browns have shown more positives this season than their record may show, but they still have a long way to go in 2013.


28. Philadelphia Eagles

The only positive for most Eagles fans is that this is probably Andy Reid's last game on Philadelphia's sideline.


29. Tennessee Titans

A 55-7 shellacking at the hands of Green Bay in Week 16 removed any possibility of positives in Week 17.


30. Oakland Raiders

Oakland would need five more games to make anyone feel positive about this franchise.


31. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville nearly stole a big win over New England in Week 16, but it will be fighting for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft instead.


32. Kansas City Chiefs

A win next Sunday won't do anything to reverse an embarrassing season for Romeo Crennel's team.


    Report: NFL Used Polling to Get Public Opinion on Kap

    NFL logo

    Report: NFL Used Polling to Get Public Opinion on Kap

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Packers Sign TE Marcedes Lewis

    NFL logo

    Packers Sign TE Marcedes Lewis

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    Carroll Expects Thomas at Minicamp

    NFL logo

    Carroll Expects Thomas at Minicamp

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report

    NFL Position Battles Worth Watching 👀

    NFL logo

    NFL Position Battles Worth Watching 👀

    Brad Gagnon
    via Bleacher Report