Could the Rams be the "X-Factor" in who Wins the NFC West? The hiring of Jeff Fisher injected hope in Rams Park. It was cautious optimism, but optimism nonetheless. After a 4-3 start this season, that optimism reached its crescendo during the Rams-Vikings match-up. Following that Rams OT loss , it has been a rapid plummet back to the depths of the NFL standings.
In past seasons, the Rams reverted to a ‘spoiler’ role late in the season. They have a similar opportunity to dictate some terms of the NFL playoffs; maybe not within the division, as Arizona has a sizable lead on Seattle, but definitely concerning the Wild Card prospects of the Seahawks.
Miriam-Webster defines ‘x-factor’ as:
a circumstance, quality, or person that has a strong but unpredictable influence.
If that definition doesn’t fit this Rams team, I’m not sure what does. They’re more unpredictable than any NFL team I’ve ever seen and have an ability to have a strong impact on the NFL landscape. While it may not be in the most traditional of ways, the Rams are in a position to effect the NFL landscape on multiple fronts.
As far as the playoffs are concerned, this game is meaningless. Neither of these two franchises is sniffing the playoff picture in 2015. However, the Rams could spoil some fun for 49er fans in the most Rams way possible: by losing to a horrible team. If the Rams lose this game, they will likely ruin any hopes that the 49ers have for the #1 pick. While there are no Andrew Luck’s or Cam Newton’s in the 2016 draft, that’s still a blow to a franchise looking for hope after a horrific 2015 season.
The Seahawks currently sit in the #6 seed in the NFC. Obviously they need to keep winning to maintain that seed. However, it’s easy to argue that the Rams are the toughest game left on their schedule. The Rams always play Seattle tough and a physical NFC bout in Week 16 could cause issues for a playoff run.
On the other side of the coin, if the NFC playoff picture is clear heading into the game, a whole ‘nother beast will rear its head. How will the Rams respond if the Seahawks have nothing to play for? Hell, can they even compete with Seattle if they ‘rest’ their playmakers? It certainly adds intrigue, but takes away from any x-factor effects that the Rams could have.
Depending on how the table sets itself heading into Week 16, the Seahawks could have a lot or very little to play for. How much they have to play for will determine how big of an x-factor the Rams can be. That said, if Seattle wants to have any chance at a division crown, they NEED the Rams to beat the Cardinals. These match-ups are always particularly physical, even by NFC West standards. Even if the Rams can’t pull off an upset, they could hamper the Seahawks chances when they play Arizona in Week 17.
Arizona is far-and-away the class of the NFC West right now. They’re riding a 5 game win streak into the Dome this weekend. Barring Carson Palmer biting it again, they’re going to win the division. The Rams ability to impact their season at this point seems minimal. However, NFC West contests are brutal. Since they have a decent lead in the division, Arizona may prioritize staying healthy over winning this game. As last season showed, without Palmer around they’re pretty pedestrian. I’m not saying that they won’t play hard – Bruce Arians won’t allow that – but they may be a bit more cautious in their game plan to preserve Palmer’s knees.
The Rams would have a hard time spoiling NFC West for ARI, but that’s not to say that they still can’t play spoiler. Although they could easily spoil the playoffs for Seattle or the #1 pick for San Fran.
Could final 2 Games Decide Jeff Fisher’s future?
The Rams aren’t favored in any game for the remainder of the season. According to Stats LLC, they have no more than a 45% chance to win any remaining game.
|Opponent||Chance to Win|
If Jeff Fisher could find a way to close on a 2 game win streak, it would be a tremendous upset. But it would also be a coup for Fisher. He could roll into the 2016 offseason touting a 5-1 or 6-0 division record. Optimism at season’s end could provide hope that he’s still the man for the job. But, if the Rams lose out (as Stats LLC predicts) it would undoubtedly be rock bottom for the Jeff Fisher Regime in St Louis.