NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Teams with Most to Prove in Season's Final Two Games

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens walks across the field after losing to the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

NFL teams have two weeks remaining in the regular season to prove themselves.

That's it.

Squads could prove themselves through a playoff push, or simply by closing the year strong. Some teams don't have to prove a thing, having already gone far beyond any reasonable expectations this season.

Either way, the season's final two weeks will be exciting. Playoff races are tight in each conference, with several teams pushing for wild-card spots or to solidify seeding.

Let's power rank the teams and focus a bit more on teams that have the most to prove.

1. Denver Broncos

Denver isn't going to prove anything versus Cleveland and Kansas City that it hasn't already proven on its current nine-game winning streak. This team looks like a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

2. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons would like to show everyone that the real version of their team is the one that embarrassed the Giants on Sunday and not the one that has slipped up versus the Saints and Panthers.

3. New England Patriots

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This isn't a perfect team, but the Patriots won't prove anything against two weak teams to close the year. Everyone knows what to expect from this group, for better or worse.

4. Houston Texans

Houston has to show how bad it wants to be the AFC's No. 1 seed. With games against Indianapolis and Minnesota to close the year, it won't be easy.

5. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have already beaten Seattle once, and they've also won tough road games this season. On top of that, Colin Kaepernick proved Sunday night that he's capable of stepping up in high-pressure scenarios.

6. Green Bay Packers

Except for a hiccup versus the Giants in Week 12, the Packers have proven that they will be a dangerous force once the playoffs roll around.

7. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is playing well on both sides of the ball lately, not just on defense, and that's turned it into one of the NFL's most-intriguing teams as the final two weeks roll around.

Next Sunday's game versus the 49ers is going to be interesting. The Seahawks currently sit one game behind San Francisco in the NFC West, and a win at home would put them neck-and-neck entering Week 17.

The Seahawks don't always win pretty, but rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is learning more and more each week. He's a dangerous dual-threat player, and he carries a mature head on his shoulders.

Couple him with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch, and Seattle's offense isn't something to overlook.

The team's defense doesn't need an explanation at this point.

For Seattle, it's all about proving that it belongs right now.

8. Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore is the weakest division leader in the NFL, and it has done nothing to prove any differently. Currently riding a three-game losing streak, the Ravens could realistically lose five straight to close the season.

Beating the Giants and Bengals won't be easy. Joe Flacco hasn't taken command of the Ravens offense, and Ray Rice is still grossly underutilized.

If Flacco wants to take the next step as an "elite" quarterback, Baltimore needs to win both of its final games. That's what it will take to make this team look like a squad that is ready to win big games in the playoffs.

The Ravens have fizzled since dropping a surprising game to the Steelers in Week 13, but their troubles could be taken back to the team's first meeting with its AFC North rival in Week 11.

It's time to put up or shut up for Flacco and Co.

9. Indianapolis Colts

What more could the Colts possibly prove? Losing to Houston in Week 15 was somewhat expected, but this team has done far more than anyone could have imagined this year.

10. Washington Redskins

The Redskins have nothing to prove. They've played without Robert Griffin III and won a big game in a division race.

It was hard to gauge this team entering the season, but it's clear how dangerous this group really is.

11. New York Giants

This is normally when the Giants prove themselves, but they've done nothing to help themselves by losing four of their last six games.

Traveling to Baltimore in Week 16 won't be easy, and the Eagles would like nothing more than to send their NFC East rivals a crippling loss to close the season.

Eli Manning's struggles with turnovers and the Giants' inconsistencies on defense have plagued this team all year long. They just don't have the look of a team that's ready to make a run.

It's one thing to lose to a two-loss Falcons team in Week 15, but losing 34-0 should never happen under any circumstance.

New York must prove that it really wants it this year, because there is no doubt that Washington does. At this point, it's hard not to pick the 'Skins to chase down the Giants for the NFC East crown.

12. Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota may have a little something to prove, but Adrian Peterson doesn't. You will be hard pressed to find a more remarkable season than the one he's enjoying.

13. Chicago Bears

The Bears feasted on a weak first-half schedule, but have dropped five of six versus tougher opponents. Too bad for them, beating Arizona and Detroit won't do anything to prove their worth at the end of the year.

14. Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati just keeps quietly plugging along. As winners of five of six, the Bengals are looking like a dangerous wild-card team.

15. Dallas Cowboys

Dallas proved itself in a close win over the Steelers. Its run game will have a chance to prove itself further in games against New Orleans and Washington to close the season.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers must put their recent struggles behind them and prove that they can win a big game again.

That all starts with their Week 16 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. If Pittsburgh wins, its playoff hopes are alive. If it doesn't, though, the Steelers will be left disappointed after an injury-laden season.

Pittsburgh has committed silly mistakes in the past two weeks, leading to surprising losses at the hands of the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys. Errors like fumbles and missed tackles don't make the Steelers look like a team that's ready to make the postseason.

The Steelers will have a chance to change that perspective with a big win on Sunday. They must prove that they're ready to play mistake-free football when it matters most.

17. St. Louis Rams

St. Louis isn't an explosive team, but this group has made tremendous strides under Jeff Fisher this season because of its scrappy, gritty play.

18. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill has proven to be better than many expected this season, but the team hasn't won on the road since late October.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay must show that it's the team that won four of five games between Weeks 6 and 11 and not the team that is on a four-game losing streak.

20. New Orleans Saints

The Saints need to close the season strong, simply to move on and prepare for next year. The baggage attached to this season has to stop when Week 17 ends, if the team hopes to find success again next year.

21. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo needs to prove that it can win within the AFC East, and it will have a chance versus Miami and the Jets in the season's final two weeks.

22. San Diego Chargers

San Diego proved that it could win a big game by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14, but that excitement stopped with a disappointing loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

23. Carolina Panthers

Carolina has won two games in a row, so the improvement has been there, but the team must show that it can play consistent football on a regular basis if the Panthers hope to get over the hump next season.

24. New York Jets

Mark Sanchez isn't good, and this team showed all that it needed to show in Sunday night's loss to the Titans.

25. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals had nothing to prove through the first four weeks of the season, but now they need someone to prove that they can play quarterback.

26. Cleveland Browns

The Browns have already proved that their young players have the talent to compete. Now, they must get more consistent.

27. Tennessee Titans

This team isn't going anywhere, but Chris Johnson could prove that there is more where Sunday night's 94-yard touchdown run came from. 

28. Detroit Lions

Jim Schwartz's seat keeps getting hotter as the Lions have now lost six straight games.

29. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had the most to prove out of any team entering this season, but they are way past showing anything to anyone with two games remaining.

30. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders usually have something to prove. Sometimes that results in players playing with a chip on their shoulder, but lately it has just resulted in more disappointment.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

Injuries to Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert don't completely excuse this team from its horrible play this season. Expect major changes in the offseason.

32. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs will have a lot to prove throughout the next couple of season after this year's debacle.