Will the Rams make the playoffs in 2017?
After a 13-year absence, can the Los Angeles Rams return to the playoffs? The next six games will give them a chance.
2003 was the last time the Los Angeles Rams made the playoffs, led by Mark Bulger, Marshall Faulk, and Torry Holt. They squeaked in with an 8-8 record as a wild card team and beat the Seattle Seahawks 27-20. They lost to the Atlanta Falcons 47-17 in the divisional round. Faulk retired after the season, and it was the last full year the team was coached by Mike Martz. The Greatest Show on Turf was essentially over.
Now, thirteen years later, the Rams are 7-3 and leading the NFC West by one game over the Seahawks. Most believe they will make the playoffs. The team was rolling over opponents with the highest point differential and the most points in the league until the met the Minnesota Vikings last week.
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Minnesota was only the second winning team they had played. The Rams beat the Jacksonville Jaguars decisively. (The Rams also beat the Dallas Cowboys, who had a winning record at the time, but not currently.)
Beginning with Minnesota, the Los Angeles Rams started a stretch of more difficult opponents. Let’s look at each remaining opponent and the chances of a win, comparing wins against teams with a current winning record.
New Orleans Saints (8-2). The Saints have won every game since week two. Their two running backs are playing great, relieving Drew Brees of having to win every game with his arm. Their defense is sound. But the Saints have only beaten two teams with winning records so far. The Rams are at home, though missing their leading receiver, Robert Woods. This one is a toss-up.
Arizona Cardinals (4-6). The Cards have not beat any winning teams this year and are having numerous personal problems, including quarterback. Though the game is in Arizona, the Rams have played well on the road and should win this game.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-1). This is the team that has played the best and most consistently so far, though they have only beaten one team who has a winning record at the moment. The game is in L.A., but the Eagles will probably win because of their more mature team and momentum.
Seattle Seahawks (6-4). This is a tough one to call, because, while it is in Seattle, the Seattle defense is decimated, and the offense consists almost entirely of Russel Wilson making plays with his legs and arm. The Seahawks have only beaten one team with the winning record: the Rams. On paper, the Rams should win this one, but it could go either way based on mistakes and execution.
Tennessee Titans (6-4). An away game the Rams should win. While the Titans have shown a lot of promise this year, and beaten some good teams (they have a 2-0 record against teams with current winning records).
San Francisco 49ers (1-9). The 49ers have not beaten any teams with the winning record at the moment. At home on New Year’s Eve, LA should win this game, though division games often bring surprise wins. If the Rams have locked up a playoff spot, they might sit their starters, which could also have an effect.
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This stretch of six games includes four teams with winning records, and the Rams have only beaten one team with a winning record this season. If that holds true, the Rams would end the season at 9-7 (wins over the Cards and Niners) or 10-6 (beat any one of the teams with a winning record.) Either would be the best record since 2006 under Scott Linehan, and almost surely be enough for a wild card spot (a major run by other teams could make a difference). If the Seahawks continue to have trouble and the Rams win the division, they will be assured a playoff spot.
If they can beat two or more of the Saints, Eagles, Hawks, and Titans, they would be 11-5 or better, and maybe even get a first-round bye, though unlikely with the records of the Vikings and the Eagles.
Barring major injuries or a major letdown, chances are the Los Angeles Rams will finally end the 13-year drought in the playoffs.