How did LA Rams clinch a playoff berth in Week 17?

Sean Mcvay, Los Angeles Rams
Sean Mcvay, Los Angeles Rams / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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The LA Rams, defying all logic and reason, have rebuilt a playoff team with one of the most frugal NFL salaries in 2023. The Rams, through an organizational decision, deliberately parted ways from multiple well-compensated veteran players, and the cost of doing so prematurely required the Rams to absorb the remaining salary cap hits for those players instantly. That organizational decision resulted in the Rams dead salary cap rising to a lofty $77.7 million in 2023.

That works out to 34.5 percent of the Rams total 2023 salary allocation. In essence, the Rams are playing with an active roster that is getting paid less than 65.5 percent of the norm in 2023. If that was a family's income, the Rams would be under the NFL poverty level.

Why are we talking about the LA Rams salary cap when we should be talking about the LA Rams heading into the NFL Playoffs? It's all intended to add a bit of perspective to the achievement. By all rights, the LA Rams should never have been in the race for postseason competition.

A new hope rises for the Rams

When the LA Rams limped into their Week 10 BYE, the Rams had gotten just five games from veteran All-Pro WR Cooper Kupp. For that matter, the Rams had only gotten six games from featured RB Kyren Williams. Even starting QB Matthew Stafford was unable to suit up for one game. So nobody was surprised that the Rams had fallen to a record of 3-6.

Still, some optimists were not ready to surrender just yet. I reminded fans that the Rams still had enough firepower on the team to claw their way back to relevance. And the Rams' schedule had backloaded some of the easier teams after the BYE. Even if the Rams did not start to compete more effectively, the Rams would improve simply by the fact that the team would face less proficient opponents.

If you snipped the Rams season into two at Week 10, the Rams' first nine games would look nothing like the most recent seven games. In the first part of the season, the Rams performed erratically, unable to string together two consecutive victories. The Rams benefitted from some amazing rookie performances, but those players faded away just as quickly the following week. It was typical of a young roster.