As much as it hurt the LA Rams to get swept by the 49ers this season, let’s also take a moment to appreciate what they did against what could have been a “gauntlet” of opponents in the second half of the year.
After losing to the Miami Dolphins in Week 8, the Rams took a week of rest and then returned to defeat the Seahawks and Bucs in back-to-back games. That win over Seattle has now positioned Los Angeles to be NFC West champions if they can beat the 0-13 Jets and the Seahawks in the next two weeks. Thanks to wins over the Cardinals and Patriots in their last two games, the Rams are not only favored to win the division, but they have an outside shot at the all-important number one seed.
And even if LA loses to Seattle, so long as they get a win over New York this Sunday then they’ll be in position to potentially still win the division with a victory over Arizona in Week 17.
If the Rams go Win-Loss-Win to end the season, they’ll be 11-5. But for Seattle to assure themselves of finishing ahead of LA, they’ll need to go Win-Win-Win to end the year. The Seahawks go on the road to face the Washington Football Team — winners of four straight games — before hosting the Rams, then traveling to San Francisco to face a 49ers team with nothing to lose in Week 17.
I believe it will be difficult for the Seahawks to win out and also difficult for the Rams to lose to the Jets. And while you’d think that Sean McVay will lose to Arizona eventually, he’s 7-0 against the Cardinals in his career.
And 5-2 against Seattle, including a 42-7 win in Seattle in 2017.
So the Rams have a decent shot at 12-4 and I’d say they are probable to win the division at least 7 out of 10 times under these circumstances. What are their odds of the one seed, if the Rams do win out?
It’s not as hard to imagine as I had feared.
Because the Saints lost in Week 14, the Rams are only one game back of the top two teams in the NFC. The Packers moved into first place after beating the Lions 31-24 on Sunday, but they are also only one game ahead. If LA wins out, they’ll be 12-4 overall, 10-2 in the conference and 4-2 in the division.
New Orleans plays the 12-1 Chiefs this week, so a loss would drop them to 10-4 and the Rams would be tied with them in overall record. However, a loss to an AFC team is not as devastating as if it had come to an NFC team. LA might need to see the Saints drop one of their final two games: home vs the Vikings and at the Panthers. Minnesota could still be fighting for a playoff seed at that point and the Vikings pushed the Saints to overtime in the wild card round last season. Minnesota has a win over Green Bay this season and is capable of beating Taysom Hill or an injured Drew Brees.
I’d say Carolina is actually awful, though they did nearly force OT against the Saints in Week 7.
The Packers may have an easier road to 13-3 or 12-4, but they’re kind of a weird team. Green Bay has the Panthers and Titans at home in the next two, then face the Bears in Chicago. If they go 10-2 in NFC play and 5-1 in their division, that’s not something the Rams can do after getting swept by the Niners. Green Bay got blown out by the Bucs this year and lost to the Vikings and Colts. They were pushed to the edge against Detroit on Sunday also.
Aaron Rodgers has dominated Chicago, though the Bears did beat them in Chicago only two years ago. This will be the Bears “Super Bowl” in Week 17. Can Green Bay find losses against the Titans and Bears?
Overall, I’m thinking that the Rams win the NFC West and “settle” for the two seed or three seed. And that would be okay: the two seed means a home game in the wild card round (probably against Arizona) and if they win, that’s another home game in the divisional round. The three seed means a home game in the wild card round — and if the two seed loses, that means another home game in the divisional round.
Because LA beat the Seahawks and Cardinals once already, as well as sweeping the NFC East (something Seattle couldn’t do) and beating the Bucs, they’re in a good position heading into the home stretch.
What seed will the Rams get?
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