A Week 16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings sealed the playoff fate of the Los Angeles Rams - the team has now punched its ticket to the post season for the fourth time in Sean McVay’s five years as head coach. While we know the team is going to be playing after their Week 18 game against the San Francisco 49ers, we do not yet know who the Rams will be facing in the opening round.
Per playoffstatus.com, a detailed resource and tracker for league standings and playoff pictures for the major sports leagues, the Rams’ have a less than 1% probability to edge out the Green Bay Packers and take over the #1 seed in the NFC. It is a near given that the team will be playing in the wildcard round of the playoffs, and the likelihoods of each team they could face are as follows:
Arizona Cardinals - 31%
Los Angeles split the regular season division matchups with Arizona, and a third contest could go either way. The Cardinals lead the division and the NFC standings for most of the season, but the team has lost its last three games and faces a tough matchup against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.
The Rams got the best of Kyler Murray in the most recent battle, as Murray committed two turnovers and did not reach the end zone. With DeAndre Hopkins injured, the Arizona passing attack seems significantly less lethal.
San Francisco 49ers - 21%
There is a possibility that Arizona would lose to Dallas this week and the Rams also beat the Baltimore Ravens, which would mean LA’s Week 18 matchup against San Francisco could have minimal impact on the NFC West and playoff standings. Would the Rams elect to rest starters in this scenario, leading to the 49ers likely sweeping the Rams in the regular season and for the sixth consecutive game?
A potential playoff matchup would shake out much differently, especially considering that the 49ers’ starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, is dealing with a broken thumb. Garoppolo’s injury likely means that rookie Trey Lance will close out the season for San Francisco, but the veteran’s status for the playoffs would be up in the air. Overall, the Rams have been a much more consistent team over the course of the season than the 49ers and should be favored in a potential third game.
Dallas Cowboys - 17%
This scenario assumes that the Rams lost the NFC West division race to the Cardinals - which means Los Angeles would travel to Dallas in the opening round. On the surface LA seems to matchup well against the Cowboys, where the Rams’ strong pass defense could keep Dak Prescott and his arsenal of weapons in check.
The Cowboys have been hot and cold this season, but their Week 17 matchup versus Arizona will be a good barometer for how they measure up against the Rams.
Philadelphia Eagles - 12%
On the flip side, a potential playoff game against the Eagles would not be favorable for LA. The Rams have struggled this season against teams that deploy a heavy run and ball control approach - such as the Tennessee Titans and 49ers. Los Angeles is built to rush the passer and slow down the modern NFL passing attack, but they can’t always stand up in the ground game.
This game gives off shades of the Rams 2019 loss to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, where LA lost haplessly 45-6.
New Orleans Saints - 12%
New Orleans has been seeking consistency at the quarterback position all season, and the Saints seem to have more questions than answers at this point. In Week 16 the Saints started rookie Ian Book on Monday night football, which lead to a 20-3 defeat to the Miami Dolphins. Book threw for 135 yards and 2 interceptions in this game.
Even with all their troubles on offense, New Orleans still has a tough defense that has caused problems for even the best quarterbacks this season, including Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Is this enough to overcome the uncertainty on the other side of the ball?
Minnesota Vikings - 3%
While the final score from Week 16 of 30-23 suggests a close game, the Rams mostly dominated the Vikings. Jalen Ramsey was able to take away Minnesota’s most potent receiving threat - Justin Jefferson. Aaron Donald dominated the line of scrimmage, and Sony Michel churned out tough yardage on the ground.
Justin Jefferson vs Jalen Ramsey this week— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 27, 2021
21 cover snaps
24 yards pic.twitter.com/3plLaO8wUk
There was a single member of the Rams that kept this game from becoming a blowout, but he’s also a huge reason why the LA offense has been so explosive at times this season - Matthew Stafford. The Rams won this matchup despite Stafford’s performance. Is this a sign of continued struggles for the quarterback versus Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, or would Stafford fare better in a second contest?
Who would you like to see the Rams play in the NFC wildcard round? Let us know your thoughts on the potential matchups in the comments below.
Who do you want to see the Rams play in the first round of the playoffs?
This poll is closed
Arizona Cardinals (31%)
San Francisco 49ers (21%)
Dallas Cowboys (17%)
Philadelphia Eagles (12%)
New Orleans Saints (12%)
Minnesota Vikings (3%)
Other - Football Team (2%), Falcons (1%), Buccaneers (<1%)