The Los Angeles Rams are now 3-3 after losing in Week 6 to the San Francisco 49ers. The likelihood of making the playoffs has then plummeted on the back of a three-game losing streak.
But as I look across the schedule and the standings, something jumped out at me.
The Rams have 10 games remaining that can be separated into two distinct groups. There’s a group that have 2 or less wins, and there’s a group that have 3 or more wins. Both groups include five games.
The group of the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals make up the Rams’ games in Weeks 7, 8, 10, 13 and 17. Those latter two are the Rams’ NFC West battles with the Cards. Interestingly, none of these teams had two wins going into Week 6. I think it’s fair to say the Rams have to go at least 4-1 in these five games to give themselves a chance at the playoffs and a 10-win season at a minimum. That’s a good sense of the pressure the Rams are under in these next few weeks with three of these games up next.
The other group? That’s where it looks rough. The 3-2 Chicago Bears in Week 11. The 4-2 Baltimore Ravens a week later. And the Week 14-16 gauntlet against the 5-1 Seattle Seahawks, the 3-3 Dallas Cowboys and the 5-0 San Francisco 49ers. Oh, and those last two are on the road. If the Rams can go 4-1 against the lesser bracket, they’d need to go 3-2 in this group to hit 10 wins. A 5-0 run and the Rams could go 3-2 here and still get to 10 wins. But anything less than four wins mean they have to exceed their record from the former group here, and I’m not sure that’s got much chance of happening.
I think this is a good way to structure the season and the playoff outlook as things stand. The Rams got whooped by the Niners yesterday. So be it. They’re a good team and they adjusted much better than we did to the way the game developed. But the Seahawks are also a fine team and the Rams nearly beat them on their own field on a night when QB Russell Wilson was spectacular. We also beat the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers who are a combined 9-3. Of course...we also lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, so let’s not assume anything right now given how rudderless the Rams seem to be in terms of their identity.
But there’s clearly a block of teams the Rams should beat and a block that looks much, much tougher. The former offers an opportunity over the next three games to right the ship and clean things up record-wise before revisiting some of the NFL’s best when we get past the bye.
How they fare against these two groups might well determine whether or not the Rams are playing postseason football this year.