Well, last night certainly made things a bit clearer for the Los Angeles Rams as the New Orleans Saints fended off a stingy Carolina Panthers team on Monday Night Football. In doing so, the Saints moved out to an NFL best 12-2 record while the Panthers are now outside the playoff picture with just six wins.
Here’s how things look with Week 15 fully played out:
Starting at the top, the Rams would need a near-miracle from the Saints in order to take the #1 seed. The Saints have two home games remaining against the Pittsburgh Steelers and a rematch against the Panthers to close out the season, and the Rams would need the Saints to lose both. On top of which, the Rams would need to win against the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers; that’s certainly within bounds, but it might require the Rams to avoid their 2017 strategy of resting starters down the stretch as they did last season in Week 17...against the Niners.
Nipping on the Rams’ heels is the Chicago Bears who own the tiebreaker having beat us outright in Week 14. Having done so, the Rams have to remain a game ahead in the standings which is the exact spacing we maintain right now. Win out against Arizona and San Fran, and we have nothing to worry about. Slip up against either including against the Niners in Week 17 with a potential second team running the show (again, and yes we’re going to mention this 1,000 times over the next 12 days), and it would allow the Bears to take the #2 seed if they can hold out against the Niners and Minnesota Vikings on the road to close things out in the regular season.
After the top three who are all already in double digit situations in the win column, it’s a dogfight for the final three spots.
The Dallas Cowboys own the slightest of leads in the NFC East over the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Slightest Lead Not-Havers. They get the 5-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home before finishing on the road with the 5-9 New York Giants. The Eagles have a surging 10-4 Houston Texans team at home before heading out to face the Slightest Lead Not-Havers; Washington instead travels to an 8-6 Tennessee Titans squad before that Week 17 NFC East showdown. So it’s easy enough to see the Cowboys finding their way to the last divisional crown in the NFC yet to get locked up, but it leaves open those wild card spots.
In the mix with the NFC have-nots-but-nearly-haves are the 8-6 Seattle Seahawks who lost in extremely disappointing fashion to the Niners this weekend. A win over the then-three-win Niners would have pushed them into fine space as the only nine-win team in the NFC, but the loss puts them in precarious position now with to invite the Kansas City Chiefs to Seattle on Sunday Night Football next week before closing out against the Cards. The Minnesota Vikings? They’re 7-6-1, but traverse the NFC North pathways at the 5-9 Detroit Lions before finishing with the NFC North champion Bears at home to close things out.
Yeah, it’s messy.
Yeah, it’s supposed to be.
Now let’s just hope the Rams handle their own business over the last two weeks to hold on to the #2 spot and let the chips fall where they may beyond our spot in the NFC standings.