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Are The St. Louis Rams Legitimate Playoff Contenders Halfway Through 2015?

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As the Rams near their halfway mark of the 2015 season, analysts are starting to throw around the "p" word...

Yesterday, we looked at a crop of NFL.com analysts assembled to make predictions as to who would win the major awards at the end of the 2015 season. And while rookie RB Todd Gurley certainly seems posed to pick up some individual accolades as he continues to do so week to week, the nature of a team sport certainly lends more value to the collective successes found in making, and winning in, the postseason.

So with that in mind, the analysts offered up their playoff predictions as we head into Week 9, and unlike previous years under Jeff Fisher, the Rams are a popular option with little more than half of the season remaining. Here's how it broke down across the NFC:

NFC North

Team Votes
Green Bay Packers 17
Minnesota Vikings 1

Stop, Nate Burleson. Just stop.

NFC East

Team Votes
New York Giants 11
Dallas Cowboys 4
Philadelphia Eagles 3

No votes for Washington while the 2-5 Cowboys who are on a five-game losing streak get the secondmost votes?

NFC South

Team Votes
Carolina Panthers 15
Atlanta Falcons 3

These two play each other twice in the final four weeks. Playoff implications much?

NFC West

Team Votes
Arizona Cardinals 14
St. Louis Rams 2
Seattle Seahawks 2

Look, the sentiment's nice. And it's fun to envision the Rams taking the division, but Michael Silver's reasoning for picking us to win the division is the exact reason you shouldn't:

They haven't even started playing well yet ... and their star running back hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential. Scary.

I might disagree that the Rams haven't "played well" the last two weeks, but I'd disagree more with the idea that there's a ton of improvement coming. We've seen the passing offense. There's no panacea coming. If there was, it would've been Just Todd Gurley. And on the potential front, any manifestation of that is likely going to come in future seasons. Asking more from JTG behind an offensive line that itself isn't quite together is an indication of how desperate the Rams are offensively.

NFC Wild Card #1

Team Votes
Minnesota Vikings 5
Atlanta Falcons 3
Arizona Cardinals 3
Carolina Panthers 3
St. Louis Rams 2
Seattle Seahawks 1
Green Bay Packers 1

This is much more the Rams' inside track, even if the methodology is a bit skewed. It would've been nice to see a second poll having locked in the division winners to see who the analysts thought would fill in here.

NFC Wild Card #2

Team Votes
Seattle Seahawks 9
Atlanta Falcons 3
New Orleans Saints 2
St. Louis Rams 1
Minnesota Vikings 1
Arizona Cardinals 1
Seattle Seahawks or Minnesota Vikings 1

Seahawks or Vikings? What is this crap, Ike Taylor? Follow the official, legally binding rules when making completely arbitrary and shallow predictions, good sir.

A bit surprised not to see more love for the Rams across the board overall with just two division winning votes and three wild card nods. And the lack of courage in these is, as per usual, disappointing.

Outside of the Cowboys selections to win the division, everyone's calling for more of the same with a Seahawks or Saints wrinkle here and there for the 4-4 teams. But as we see every year, some of the teams who have jumped out to an early winning record are going to fall off, and a couple or more teams who struggled out of the gate are going to get hot in November into December.

Still, it's a fair indication of where the national media bubble has the Rams: in striking distance.

And going into Week 9 against the Minnesota Vikings, it's the perfect spot to be to make a statement on the road to the media and to the Rams' opponents in the weeks ahead.