If I'm Jeff Fisher, I'd be a bit mifted the Rams' bye week hit when it did. His players are hitting on all cylinders; gaining in experience and confidence the last four weeks. They've passed through the mourning period following Sam Bradford's season ending injury, and have a renewed faith in back up quarterback Kellen Clemens. Rookies are playing well, and veterans have made it through relatively unscathed by injuries at this, the post mid-season point. With six games left to play - five of the teams being incredibly good - the Rams aren't out of the postseason hunt. Yes, REALLY!
It will all come down to how they come out of their two week lull between game against Chicago at the Edward Jones Dome. If they play like they just rolled off the couch following a prolonged Cheetos binge, the season will be over. But - and this is a bigger "butt" than DC's - if they maintain the up-level of play on display in Indianapolis, the Rams could seriously make a run toward a wild card berth. What's more, they could cause a complete upheaval in post season seeds for teams like San Francisco, Seattle and New Orleans, plus be the spoiler for Chicago and a surprising Arizona. It's a tall order to fill, since each of these teams - with the exception of the week #16 game against Tampa Bay - will be in "down the stretch" mode.
Familiarity with the 49ers and Seahawks is going to help the Rams down the stretch, but both games are away. Playing Chicago, Tampa and New Orleans in St. Louis give the Rams home turf advantage, but that hasn't really been that big a plus for them this season. Yes, I know my best case scenario depends on at least a couple of these teams swooning toward the finish line, but consider this: San Francisco has to play Seattle the week after they face the Rams - both games at Candlestick. It's going to be a punishing two weeks for the 49ers. Then they have to fly across country to Tampa, then back to play Atlanta, who'll be playing to - more than likely - save their head coach's job. Then it's off to Arizona for the finale, where an upstart Cardinals team has playoff dreams of their own.
Seattle has a great down the stretch schedule, which means there's the chance of a Pete Carroll kerfuffle. It wouldn't be the first time a Carroll team has tripped up as they head toward the wire. Arizona has the toughest stretch run, with the Colts, Eagles, Rams, Titans, Seahawks and 49ers.
The biggest hitch in the Rams' post season giddy-up, is going to come from outside the NFC West. While the NFC East looks like they'll send only one team to the playoffs, the South and North are a different story. There are two, if not three, teams in the post season hunt in the "Norse" division. It will depend on how fast Aaron Rodgers mends as to whether the Packers can get back on track, but don't count them out. Detroit and Chicago are only a game apart right now. Now can you start to see how the Rams could literally be the team to kick over the post season table? They beat the Bears, and Detroit wins, then suddenly the post season starts to open up a bit for lower win/loss teams to edge their way in.
In the NFC South, New Orleans is flying high, and so is Carolina with its current five game win streak. These two teams face off twice - in weeks 14 and 16. Personally, I can see how the Panthers could end up with the NFC South title, since the remainder of their schedule has Tampa, Jets and Dolphins nicely mixed with key games, and they're done playing bruising NFC West teams. New Orleans still has the 49ers, Rams and Seahawks to go through. Playing into my mishmash-ed scheming, the Rams 2013 season will depend on win/loss records "going south" for both these teams.
So what is Jeff Fisher thinking as he considers his team's post season chances? I really believe he's trying not to consider all the things that would have to happen to thrust his team into the playoffs. The only viable course for him to take right now is "one game at a time" and up the physical ante against each team so they're effected going forward. In all honesty, it would probably take the Rams running the table against some very good teams to see the playoffs. Doing it with a back up quarterback isn't unheard of, but it's not something I'd like to bet on. The weirder part of my little pondering-s, is that if the Rams DID make the playoffs, they'd more than likely have to play back-to-back game IN Seattle. Eeeeek! I guess it's one of those "Be careful what you wish for" kind of things, eh?
Call it homer-ism, blind faith, or maybe it's that 9th energy drink I just downed, but I'm not giving up on the Rams. How about you?