Things change quickly in the NFL, and the Week 17 slate of games significantly shifted the NFC playoff picture:
- The Green Bay Packers dominated the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night to clinch the top spot in the NFC, which means they have earned a bye and will be watching the wildcard round unfold from the comfort of their couches.
- The Arizona Cardinals bested the Dallas Cowboys to move the Los Angeles Rams into the number two position in the conference.
- The Philadelphia Eagles edged out a win over the Washington Football Team to punch its playoff ticket, leaving only one spot up for grabs between the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints.
Just a week ago the Rams were most likely going to face the Cardinals in the opening round of the playoffs, but where do things stand after the latest changes?
Per playoffstatus.com, a detailed resource and tracker for league standings and playoff pictures for the major sports leagues, the likelihoods of each team LA could face in the wildcard round are as follows:
New Orleans Saints - 39%
The Saints can only make the playoffs if they defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18 and the Rams beat the 49ers, but according to playoffstatus.com, this seems to be the most probable outcome.
New Orleans would likely be the most favorable wildcard matchup on paper for Los Angeles, as the Saints have dealt with season-long turmoil at the quarterback position. The New Orleans defense can be stifling, but it’s difficult to imagine this team getting the best of a well-rounded Rams squad.
Dallas Cowboys - 21%
In order to play the Cowboys, the Rams would have to fall to the 49ers and the Cardinals would need to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the final round of the regular season. In other words, Arizona would take home the NFC West divisional crown.
Facing Dallas may be a good matchup for Los Angeles, as Dak Prescott has been streaky this season and they have one less offensive weapon after losing Michael Gallup to a season-ending injury.
Philadelphia Eagles - 20%
The Eagles turned 2021 around by pivoting to a run-heavy attack led by second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts mid-season.
Philly has the same organizational makeup that LA has struggled with at times this season - a ball control team that can also play aggressive defense. The Rams defense is built to stop the modern passing attack; however, the Eagles will look to pound the rock time and time again to effectively shorten the game and steal possessions from Matthew Stafford.
San Francisco 49ers - 18%
Playing the 49ers two weeks in a row would create some interesting game planning scenarios between teams that know each other well and follow a lot of the same organizational principles.
At the end of the day, the Rams have the better quarterback and a better overall roster. LA’s star power should suffocate a San Francisco team that relies heavily on scheme in order to be effective. It seems straight forward, but the Rams have lost their last five games to Kyle Shanahan’s team.
Arizona Cardinals - 2%
Prior to Week 17 it seemed highly likely that the Rams would be facing an NFC West rival in the wild card round, but now the combined probability of facing either the 49ers or Cardinals equates to just a one in five chance.
In the most favorable scenario for the Rams, Arizona, as a five seed, would win its opening contest to travel to Lambeau and play the Packers in the divisional round. If the Cardinals win that game, the Rams could host the conference championship at SoFi Stadium.