McVay’s decision to rest starters pays off with Rams still earning No. 3 seed

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams greets quarterback Sean Mannion
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams greets quarterback Sean Mannion /

Despite losing to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17, the Los Angeles Rams still ended up with the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture.

For the first time since the 2003 season, the Los Angeles Rams will be participating in this year’s NFL playoffs after finishing with an 11-5 record during Sean McVay‘s first year as head coach, which nobody could have predicted to see happen a year ago. After making the overdue decision to fire Jeff Fisher before the end of last season, the Rams seemed like they would need at least a year or two under McVay before they could even come close to being considered contenders in the NFC.

Instead, Los Angeles is viewed as one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC heading into Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, who squeezed into the postseason after earning a tough win at home in Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers. With the Rams entering their regular-season finale against the 49ers as the No. 3 seed, many questioned McVay’s decision to rest his starters since there was still a risk of dropping a spot to possibly play a team like the New Orleans Saints or Carolina Panthers.

Turns out, Los Angeles received some help from Atlanta and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday to keep the team sitting at No. 3, despite the tough loss at home to San Francisco. So after all of the questioning on whether McVay should have played some of the starters to make sure they would still earn the No. 3 seed, it looks like everything worked out just fine for the Rams.

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Resting key starters like Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald along with hanging on to the No. 3 seed was the perfect way for Los Angeles to celebrate New Year’s Eve, as they prepare to host the defending NFC champions in Atlanta on Saturday night. Hopefully, the extra rest pays off for these players to help the Rams have a slight advantage on Wild Card weekend since the Falcons are coming off a tough battle of their own against the Panthers. Then again, Atlanta has the advantage of their own when it comes to players having playoff experience, meaning Los Angeles better be well prepared for this one, or it could result in an early January exit.