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Despite loss, Rams still in good playoff position

They weren’t the only team to have a bad day

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams took a loss on Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers, their second to that NFC West rival this season, but thanks to other defeats around the conference they remain in the enviable 5-seed and could be back in first place in the division as soon as Monday night.

The Rams dropped to 7-4 and the 49ers climbed to within two games of Los Angeles, but the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers also swallowed difficult losses on Sunday.

The Cardinals were tied with the New England Patriots 17-17 in the fourth quarter and kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 1:52 remaining. A 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on rookie Isaiah Simmons setup the Patriots for a game-winning 50-yard field goal by Nick Foles. The loss drops Arizona to 6-5 and they have a one-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and 49ers for the NFC’s final playoff spot.

Assuming the league doesn’t need to add an eighth playoff team, as they’ve approved should it become necessary because of COVID. The Cardinals have now lost three of their last four games.

The Buccaneers have also lost three of their last four, more evidence that DVOA is fairly useless. Tampa Bay is currently ranked second in DVOA and they’ve spent a good portion of the season as the top team in Football Outsiders’ personally designed metric. But the Bucs fell behind 20-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and lost 27-24 when the defense continuously failed to get a stop in the final four minutes of regulation.

Tampa is now 7-5 and they are the NFC’s six seed as of Monday. That keeps the Rams in the five, which means that if these standings were to hold, they’d be facing the winner of the NFC East; the current leader of that division is the 4-7 New York Giants.

Should the Seattle Seahawks lose to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, then the Rams would move up to the three seed (where they’d be currently matched to face the Bucs) and Philly would become the new four seed. But if the Seahawks win, then it remains as is with five weeks left to go.

The Rams face the Cardinals next Sunday, then have a quick turnaround to play the Patriots on Thursday Night Football. We will know a lot more after those five days.