Obviously, the playoffs are a long ways away, with the NFL still within the first quarter of the regular season. However, it is never too early to start keeping tabs on the playoff standings, especially with so many teams in the NFC battling for the “open” Wild Card spots. This early in the season, the differentiating factors between teams with similar records gets pretty deep. Regardless, without getting too in-depth into the tie-breaker system, here are the current standings in the NFC:
As you can see, there are currently seven teams in the NFC with a 1-2 record, although some have markedly different records within their division and within the conference. As a result, the St. Louis Rams are ranked 10th overall in the NFC, behind five other teams with a similar record.
Now, back to the question at hand: How could the St. Louis Rams jump all of these teams and insert themselves into one of the two Wild Card slots (i.e. 5th or 6th seed)?
First and foremost, the St. Louis Rams need to win their bout against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football. Not only will the rest of this breakdown be predicated on the Rams holding a 2-2 record after Week 4, it also brings us to our first “target.” The St. Louis Rams are already ranked above the San Francisco 49ers, by virtue of their win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, giving the Rams an undefeated record within the division. A win over the 49ers would serve doubly for the Rams, giving them 1) a 2-0 record in the NFC West and 2) knocking out one of the other 1-2 teams battling to move up the ranks.
Next, the St. Louis Rams will be “gifted” two spots, courtesy of the early bye week for both the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers. If you don’t play, you can’t win. Thus, a .500 record would automatically move the Rams up the NFC by two slots.
The final criteria needed for the meteoric rise from 10th-place to within the “playoff standings” will rely on some help from two other teams: the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. The Philadelphia Eagles, who are currently listed in the Top 6, will have the displeasure of taking on the red-hot, Peyton Manning-led Broncos in Week 4. The ailing Atlanta Falcons will also have a tough task, facing a Tom Brady-offense in New England that finally appears to be “clicking.” Assuming both lose, the Rams will jump four places in the NFC, sitting comfortably in 6th-place in the surprisingly woeful NFC conference.
To sweeten the pot, the St. Louis Rams could actually snag the 5th spot, with a little help from the Chicago Bears beating the Detroit Lions. Should the Lions lose on Sunday, their divisional record would drop to 1-1, which would technically position them a spot below the Rams, who would be sporting an undefeated, 2-0 record.
There we go! Simple as that…
So, cheer up Rams Nation! If the Rams win on Thursday, in the “worst-case” scenario, where all of the other 1-2 teams win on Sunday, St. Louis would still jump the Packers and Panthers in the standings. Moreover, the St. Louis Rams would be floating at .500, with an “extended week” to heal and practice, leading up to our Week 5 matchup against the… Jacksonville Jaguars.
There is plenty to smile about in St. Louis!