After the gritty, ugly, but utterly satisfying slug fest against the 49ers yesterday, the Rams are very much in the playoff hunt.
I know there will be at least one of you who thinks they are being smart when they break out the, "PLAYOFFS?" line, either in your head or the comments. But with a handful of games remaining in the schedule, the Rams have a very legitimate shot at sneaking into the playoffs.
It may not seem likely, but with back-to-back emotional wins over both the Cardinals and 49ers, the Rams are riding a hot streak. If they can keep that going, they might have a shot. Standing in the Rams way are the following:
The Vikings started off very hot, but they've hit a wall- hard. In the last seven games, they've only won two. They've given up an average of 27 points per game in that span. Of course, the offense is spearheaded by Adrian Peterson (who just had an incredible week) and their defense still has plenty of talent.
However, they have a brutal schedule ahead of them to close out the season. They play Chicago at home, followed by the Rams in St. Louis, the Texans in Houston, and end the season with a home game match-up with the Green Bay Packers. Not exactly something Vikings fans are looking forward to.
If the Rams can beat them, it would wipe out the one game lead the Vikings currently enjoy in the wild card race and give them a head-to-head advantage should they tie in the standings.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have a slightly easier final four games, but they are coming into them with a two game losing streak (including a narrow miss against the Falcons). They are a good offensive team statistically and also feature the best rushing defense in the league (although that number may be skewed because they are dead-last against the pass).
Tampa plays the Eagles at home, New Orleans in NO, the Rams at home, and finally the Falcons in Atlanta. It's tough to gauge these games, but overall the Bucs have a significant advantage. The Falcons will most likely be resting starters for the playoffs, while the Eagles and Saints are, well, not very good. The two teams will likely be playing for pride, but that only goes so far.
If the Rams want to go to the playoffs, it's a game they must win
This is it folks. There are plenty of players from two years ago (the stars, if you will) that will remember the 2010 clusterfuck that ended the season and the Rams hopes for the playoffs. Unfortunately, it's very likely that it comes down to the final game in Seattle yet again.
The team at this point, is one of the strongest in the NFC. Russell Wilson has continued to build upon his amazing rookie campaign, and one can never forget about Marshawn Lynch and the incredible Seattle defense. They also have a soft schedule, playing the Cardinals at home and then the Bills in Buffalo, before two home showdowns against the 49ers, then the Rams to close out the season.
The Rams will need help with this, as Seattle has a favorable schedule with a two game lead over the Rams. Likely, it will come during the game with the 49ers, but nothing is for granted. One of the three other teams must beat the Seahawks for the Rams to have any chance at the playoffs.
Also (and lest we forget), the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins both still very much in the hunt. The Redskins and Cowboys both have tough match ups ahead, but honestly, only the Redskins are a real threat (sorry Romo lovers). Luckily, the Rams beat them in week two. The Redskins are on their own hot streak, but again, the head-to-head win is huge here.
If the Rams want any chance to taste postseason glory, they must win all their remaining games and get a little help from either the Bills, 49ers, or Cardinals. Unless, by some miracle, the Seahawks, Bucs, Vikings and Redskins all choke, the Rams' destiny is very much their own. It's going to be an incredibly interesting final month of football, with up to six teams still realistically having a shot to snag the 6th NFC seed.
Given that they have the third strongest schedule of the NFC, it's amazing that the Rams are still in the hunt after so many dismal years. Hopefully they can make it happen.