The LA Rams improved to 10-4 with a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night, matching them with the Arizona Cardinals for the best record in the NFC West. The Rams are now one game behind the Green Bay Packers for the all-important one seed in the NFC, but LA did fall to the Packers earlier this year in Green Bay.
The Rams have now won three games in a row, where could they be slotted following Week 16’s game against the Minnesota Vikings?
Best Case Scenario
Rams W vs Vikings
Cards L vs Colts
Packers L vs Browns
49ers L vs Titans
Bucs L vs Panthers
Cowboys L vs Washington
Most importantly, LA needs to extend their winning streak to four games in Minnesota. The Rams haven’t played the Vikings since a Thursday night win in 2018, a victory that ended a five-game losing streak to Minnesota. Beating the Vikings will not be easy; Minnesota is 7-7, fighting for a wild card berth, and they’ve won four of their last six games.
That includes wins over the Chargers, Packers, Steelers, and Bears. The Vikings have lost seven games, but the biggest scoring deficit in any of those losses in seven points. Minnesota could be a sleeping giant then, on the cusp of being at least 9-5 if they had won all of their overtime games, if not 11-3 if they had been much luckier this season.
The next-most important game would be in Arizona. At one point, the Cardinals were 10-2, but they’ve lost their last two games and not played well since a 34-10 loss to the Panthers in Week 10. The Colts started the season 3-5, but have won five of six and are just one game behind the Titans for the AFC South lead; Indianapolis desperately needs this win to stay ahead in the wild card race too.
Green Bay is 11-2 since their opening week blowout loss to the Saints, with a six-point loss to the Chiefs and a three-point loss to the Vikings. Could they be knocked off their perch by the Cleveland Browns? The Browns started 3-1 but are 4-6 since then with victories against the Broncos, Bengals, Lions, and Ravens. They were also missing many key players, including Baker Mayfield, because of COVID-19 and it’s unclear which players could return. Cleveland can’t lose this week if they want to stay alive in the playoffs conversation.
The rest of those “best case” games are just sort of accoutrement to give LA higher odds of keeping their place near the top of the standings. If the Rams win and the Cardinals, Packers lose, the LA Rams will be 11-4 and in the two seed, with Green Bay at 11-4 and in the one-seed.
BUT, even if Rams win, Packers lose, Cardinals lose...if the Cowboys win and improve to 11-4, they would be the number one seed after Week 16. Dallas is hosting the Washington Football Team, a football team that they defeated 27-20 in Washington on December 12th. Football Team is 6-8 and needing to win out to stay alive in the playoff race.
Worst Case Scenario
Rams L vs Vikings
Cardinals W vs Colts
Packers W vs Browns
49ers W vs Titans
Bucs W vs Panthers
Cowboys W vs WFT
Well, now that you’ve already gotten short previews of the game, no need to re-hash the likelihood of each but here’s how bad things could get for the Rams—especially if they lose to Minnesota.
If the Rams lose to the Vikings and fall to 10-5, while the Cardinals beat the Colts and improve to 11-4, LA will now essentially be two games back of Arizona with two games left to play in the season. The Rams can’t hope to win a tiebreaker vs the Cards, so they need to have a better record and that becomes highly improbable if LA loses and AZ wins this weekend.
The Rams could be a 12-5 wild card team at that point.
Similarly, LA can kiss a shot at the one-seed goodbye if they lose and the Packers beat the Browns; the Rams could do no better than having the same record as the Green Bay team that has a head-to-head victory. Sometimes head-to-head doesn’t come into play and it’s possible we will have a three-way or four-way tie at the end of the season, but the Rams just need to take care of their own business.
We also must take note of the 49ers, if the Rams lose. San Francisco could improve to 9-6 with a win against the Titans this week. That would make them only one game behind LA, if LA loses to Minnesota. Then look ahead to Week 17: Rams must go to Baltimore to face a hungry Ravens team desperate for the AFC North/playoffs, while the 49ers get to host the Houston Texans.
It’s not impossible for San Francisco to leap up to the two-spot in the NFC West by the end of next week, which is wild when you consider that after eight games the Rams had a four-game advantage over the Niners: 7-1 vs 3-5. The 49ers have won five of their last six games, including a 31-10 win over the Rams. The rematch will be at SoFi Stadium in Week 18.
What are your predictions for these six games?