The LA Rams needed one of two things to happen in Week 18 in order to win the NFC West. Either the LA Rams needed to overcome a five-game losing streak to the San Francisco 49ers, or the Arizona Cardinals needed to lose to the Seattle Seahawks.
If you followed the game today, you are already very much aware that the LA Rams dropped their fifth game of the season, and sixth consecutive game, to the San Francisco 49ers. That enable the 49ers to get into the playoffs as the sixth-seeded team. Their win prevented the New Orleans Saints from earning a playoff berth.
However, the Rams have won the NFC Western Division title, thanks to an unexpected loss by the Arizona Cardinals to the Seattle Seahawks today. That loss dropped them to 11-6, while the Rams loss dropped them to 12-5.
The Rams, even with the loss today, have won five of their last six games and must now prepare for the pressure-packed scenario of the NFL Playoffs. Coincidentally, their Wildcard Round next week will likely be against the Cardinals, a team that has lost four of their last five games.
NFC West winner, but why doesn’t it feel like something to celebrate?
Winning the NFC West feels very anti-climatic, especially after the LA Rams blew a 17 point lead in this one. The Rams did run the ball, 27 times to be exact. But the team was not nearly as effective at running the ball as hoped. That allowed the 49ers pass rush to key on Stafford, bringing him down five times in the game. The 49ers’ defense also intercepted Stafford twice.
As is often the case, the Rams’ loss to the 49ers has given all future opponents a template as to how to beat the Rams. Stop the run early, get the lead. Once the Rams are behind, the offensive switches to a passing attack. With a defense able to focus on the pass exclusively, the Rams offensive line buckles and veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford was getting tossed around routinely.
The Rams are in the playoffs. But from what we witnessed in Week 18, this was not the way they wanted the season to end. And unless the offensive line toughens up, and the secondary gets its act together, the Rams will have a tough time in the post-season.