THOUSAND OAKS – Only a late-season collapse will prevent the Rams from making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The question now seems to be, how high can they climb in the NFC standings?
To date, the Rams been remarkably consistent. Sean McVay, like many NFL coaches, seeks to set short-term goals for his players by breaking the season into four-game quarters. Sunday’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals gave the Rams a 3-1 record in each of their first three quarters.
As any NFLer knows, though, the fourth quarter is the hardest, and if the Rams are to win their division and perhaps contend for a first-round playoff bye, they might have to go 3-1 again, and that will be tough.
“We’re getting closer to our dream, and that’s the playoffs,” running back Todd Gurley said. “We need at least two (more victories) to secure a spot.”
That’s probably correct. The Rams take a 9-3 record into Sunday’s game against Philadelphia at the Coliseum, and an 11-5 final record should be good enough for a playoff spot. But it might take 12 wins the claim the division, and perhaps even 13 to earn a first-round bye.
Is it possible? Here’s a look at the Rams’ final four games, and their prospects of victory in each:
Game 13: Rams vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday at the Coliseum: This should be a fun one to watch, a matchup of the NFL’s highest-scoring teams. The Rams and Eagles actually go in tied for the league lead at points per game, at 30.1 each. And, of course, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the top two selections of the 2016 draft.
Suddenly, though, the narrative here has shifted from, “Can the Rams pull the upset?” to “How will the Eagles respond?” Philadelphia’s 24-10 loss at Seattle on Sunday ended the Eagles’ nine-game winning streak and also ended their seven-game streak of scoring at least 28 points. Still, the Eagles are scary.
Rams’ chances of victory: 45 percent.
Game 14: Rams at Seattle Seahawks, Dec. 17: The Rams-Eagles game will get all the hype, but this one arguably is more important to the Rams, who would be thrilled to win the division. At the moment, the Rams hold a one-game lead over the Seahawks, who face a tough game at Jacksonville on Sunday. At worst, the Rams will be tied for the division lead going into this game, but the Seahawks won the first meeting, so they hold the tiebreaker.
Going to Seattle in December isn’t fun, and the Seahawks are coming…