The St. Louis Rams head into the bye week on a 3 game losing streak and a little banged up, they could certainly use the bye week to rest up and regroup for the second half of the season. The Rams have fallen to 3-5 and the good feelings that came from the Thursday Night beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals, and the subsequent 3-2 record, have all but been forgotten. The Rams and the division leading 49ers (6-2) will both have the week off as they prepare for their week 10 showdown in San Fransisco. The other two teams in the division will be in action against teams from the NFC North in week 9, with the Seahawks hosting the Vikings while the Cardinals will travel to Green Bay. Looking back at the week 6 Rams, that were riding a 2 game winning streak and thinking playoffs heading into Miami, made me wonder if the 3 game losing streak had taken the Rams completely out of playoff contention or not. So we will look at the Rams competition for one of the two NFC wild card spots (lets face it the Niners will probably win the division) including the other two teams in the division as well as the Cowboys, Packers and Vikings.
St. Louis Rams. The St. Louis Rams are definitely a long shot to make the playoffs and quite frankly they will probably need quite a bit of help to get there. However until they are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention there will always be hope for true fans. The Rams will face their toughest games within the division, more specifically they will play the 49ers twice in the second half of the season. So how tough is the Rams upcoming schedule? Well the Rams opponents have a combined record of 34-28, or a 54.8% win percentage. The Rams do not have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, but they also only have 3 more home games and until they prove they can win on the road there is very little reason to be optimistic about a playoff push.
Seattle Seahawks. The Seattle Seahawks currently sit in 3rd place in the NFC West with a 4-4 record, but 0-3 within the division. The Seahawks have to feel much more comfortable with their playoff chances than the Rams, especially since they have 5 more home games on the schedule. The Seahawks upcoming opponents combined record is 34-27 or 53.7% win percentage. Seattle has their next two games at home before their bye in week 11 and definitely have an opportunity to build some momentum for a playoff run. Russell Wilson had his best game of the season last week and if he continues to progress they could be a dangerous team with that defense and running game.
Arizona Cardinals. The poor Arizona Cardinals are on a 4 game slide following their 4-0 start. It doesn’t appear as if things will get any better for the Cardinals as they travel to Green Bay in week 9 to face a surging Packers team before taking their bye in week 10. The Cardinals offense has been hit hard by injuries and has been unable to produce yards or points on a consistent basis. The Cardinals opponents have the highest win percentage of any of the NFC West teams at 37-24 or 60.7%. Arizona has the misfortune of facing 4 of the NFC’s top teams in their final 8 games as they will travel to Green Bay, Atlanta and San Fransisco, while they host the Chicago Bears. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cardinals were to finish their season at 4-12 considering their upcoming schedule and offensive troubles.
Green Bay Packers. The Green Bay Packers are likely gunning for a wild card spot, although it is not impossible that they could overtake the Bears to win the NFC North. Green Bay is not without its flaws, as they showed against the Jaguars last weekend, but they do have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Packers opponents combined record is 35-26 or 57.4% win percentage. The Packers have four more home games and four more road games to wrap up the season. The Packers will face the Cardinals, Giants and Titans with the other 5 games against division opponents. The Packers have a very tough hill to climb after their slow start but should end their season around 9-7 or 10-6 and in the mix for a wild card spot.
Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were the early season surprise, and they currently sit at 5-3 following their disappointing loss to the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. The Vikings have a brutal schedule in their final 8 weeks as their opponents have a combined record of 38-22 or 63.3% win percentage. Minnesota also only has 3 home games remaining, and all of those will be tough games against other NFC North teams. If Christian Ponder can suddenly revert back to his early season form the Vikings will have a chance, but the turnover bug has bit him and the Vikings don’t have the defense to compensate for his mistakes. The Vikings will probably finish around .500 and will miss out on the playoffs despite an impressive comeback by Adrian Peterson.
Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys continue to be the poster child for underachievers everywhere. This team has been so loaded with talent over the last few years that Super Bowl talk always fills the airwaves in Texas before the season starts. Well the Cowboys are currently 3-4 and searching for answers after failing to complete the comeback against the Giants in week 8. The Cowboys do have 5 home games remaining although, according to the statistics displayed during the Cowboys game last weekend against the Giants, they have a 14-13 all time record in the new Cowboys Stadium. There is good news for those lost Cowboys fans who might be reading this, their upcoming opponents combined record is 30-36 or a 45.5% win percentage. Although the overall records could be deceiving as they will face other very talented under achievers like the Eagles(twice) and the Saints. The Cowboys are so hard to figure out, but they are right around .500 in this century and I have no reason to believe that isn’t where they will end up again this season, at .500 and out of the playoffs.
Conclusion. So based on my best guesses for the rest of the season, the NFC North is likely to lock up one of the wild card spots whether it be the Packers of the Bears. That leaves one more wild card spot for either the Vikings, Cowboys, Seahawks or possibly even the Rams. It is quite possible that the final game of the season in Seattle is yet again a showdown to determine who will be going to the playoffs just like Bradford’s rookie season. The Rams are really in the drivers seat in terms of tie breakers, especially if they get the win over the Vikings at home. Of course being at 3-5 makes the margin for error incredibly slim in the very competitive NFC as it is possible 9 wins wont get a wild card spot. If I were a betting man I would put money on the wild card spots going to the NFC North and NFC West this year, but thats about as much as I will predict. So enjoy this weeks games and relax knowing the Rams could gain ground in the division without even taking the field. Go Rams!!!