The Rams Making The Playoffs: Not As Improbable As You Might Think
For the hell of it---seriously, out of boredom---I just went through all of the remaining schedules of the teams in the mix for the NFC playoff picture.
As I wrote in The Monday Morning Scrappy Utilityman, like what I would gather is the vast majority of you, I consider the likelihood of the Rams making the playoffs incredibly slim.
Hell, coolstandings.com has the Rams at a 2.6% chance to qualify for the postseason. To put it in perspective, they have the 6-7 Jets at a 3.7% chance.
Now, I realize the Jets are in the AFC, where a lesser record will likely get you in, but the point is that this talk of the playoffs looks to be more just a windfall in a pleasantly surprising season.
But, then I dug into the remaining schedules…you know…by going to ESPN.com. That’s research.
And, after looking at the remaining schedules, I got to tell you…this could actually happen.
As a matter of fact, I’ll go as far to say that if the Rams win out, they likely will make the playoffs.
Now, part of that above sentence is quite important to not just disregard as some kind of given: “if the Rams win out.”
That is not something most would expect. Even people around the league who may think more highly of the Rams than those who still view them as the Spagnuolo Bunch would have to concede that a win at Seattle---where the Seahawks are unbeaten---is going to be incredibly difficult. But, if you can be a Brandon-Gibson-lining-up-properly-or-Johnny-Hekker-snapping-the-ball-quicker-play away from winning at San Francisco, it’s tough to rule out any game anymore.
Furthermore, this defense is playing better now than it has at any point this season.
But, either way, the Rams must win Sunday at home against the Vikings, the following Sunday at Tampa Bay, and that final game at Seattle.
What percentage would you allot to that run?
Well, just for the hell of it…
…I’ll throw some completely arbitrary percentages out there:
vs. Minnesota: 55% chance for a Rams’ victory
at Tampa Bay: 50% chance for a Rams’ victory
at Seattle: 33% chance for a Rams’ victory
A Danny Amendola return would move those percentages up slightly. And, of course, injuries to either the Rams or their opponents move those percentages around.
And, obviously, those numbers are pulled out of the sky for the purpose of the discussion.
If there’s ever a time for Sam Bradford to fire on Oklahoma-like cylinders, it’s these final three weeks. And if Steven Jackson wants to get back to the playoffs for the first time since his rookie year, he’s going to have to do it against some damn good run defenses. The offensive line must find some magic. Receivers must get some space. And the defense just needs to keep doing what it’s been doing over the last three games. But, they’ll have to do it against Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, and Marshawn Lynch.
But, if they can, and at this point, I can’t doubt them entirely, the Rams would likely make the playoffs.
Here’s a look at the schedules for the other teams in the mix:
Seattle (8-5): at Buffalo (in Toronto), vs. San Francisco, vs. the Rams
- Even if the Seahawks win their first two, the Rams aren’t out of the playoff picture, but they wouldn’t be able to catch the Seahawks in the NFC. However, knowing that Seattle isn’t the same team on the road, and knowing that CJ Spiller is going to get all the carries this week for the Bills with Fred Jackson going on IR, a win this Sunday isn’t a guarantee. And, even if they do beat Buffalo, they still have to deal with the 49ers the following week. Personally, if I had to bet straight-up, I think I like the Bills’ chances this weekend better than the 49ers in Seattle, but either way, neither one is a guarantee. And, for the Rams’ sake as far as things they can’t control, all they need to have a shot at passing the Seahawks in Week 17 is for Seattle to lose one of their next two. It may seem impossible after watching the Bills flop around Sunday and the Seahawks sodomize the Cardinals, but it’s a real possibility.
Oh, and just for torture purposes, remember the Seahawks should be 7-6 if it weren’t for the infamous replacement official debacle in September against the Packers.
Chicago (8-5): vs. Green Bay, at Arizona, at Detroit
- Of all the teams still in the NFC mix, nobody’s playing worse than the Bears. They’re beat up, and they’re losing. Chicago’s lost four of five, and they get to deal with the Packers this weekend. For the Rams to pass the Bears, they need Chicago to lose two of three. That’s not going to be easy. It’s no given they’ll lose to the Packers. Green Bay is only a three-point favorite. It is incredibly likely that they’ll beat the Cardinals. And, while the Lions may be the biggest disappointment in the NFL this year, they have played some damn good teams close in their last four games…but they’ve lost all of them. As long as the Seahawks lose to either the Bills or the 49ers, it likely won’t matter what the Bears do the rest of the way. But, considering they get their rivalry game at home this weekend and then the worst team in the NFL the following weekend followed by a 4-9 team, it’s not likely they’ll lose two. But, it’s by no means a bet I’d make either.
Washington (7-6): at Cleveland, at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas
- Now we’re on to the three 7-6 teams that matter. Keep in mind, with each one of these teams (Redskins, Cowboys, and Vikings), they all need to lose just once…and then the Rams don’t have to worry about them (and just to reiterate, this column is all operating on the premise that the Rams win the last three games…just in case you want to fire off an angry email). The Redskins have an RGIII issue, and now that the South Side Seamen Fantasy Football Club, LLC is in the consolation bracket, I am fine with him having to miss some time this weekend…and the next weekend…and the final weekend. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. I tend to think he won’t miss time. But, either way, he has to go up against a much-improved Browns’ defense…and as odd as it may sound…an improved Browns’ offense. Since their bye on November 11th, the Browns are an overtime loss at Dallas from being undefeated. That includes a win at home against the Steelers.
Now the Redskins have to go there…with a beat up RGIII. As much as I love watching him play, that team is highly leveraged on his presence on the field. In other words, without him, my guess is they’re just another team. I’ve watched a lot of Redskins’ football this year, because I’m a RGIII, Alfred Morris, and Pierre Garcon owner (how this happened…I don’t know). And they’re a damn fun team to watch. But, they’re a team with a shaky defense, a great quarterback, and some questionable coaching. Take away the great quarterback, and they have problems. I’d bet on them to win at Philadelphia, but that is also up in the air based on RGIII’s status. And then they get Dallas at home. No matter what…as you may be aware…barring a tie…one of those two teams will be “eliminated” (again…for the sake of the premise of the column) by losing in Week 17. That means the team that wins that Week 17 game has to just lose one of their next two games. The Redskins could definitely lose this weekend. The game isn’t on the board yet in Las Vegas as oddsmakers wait for news on RGIII. And, considering Philadelphia just went down to Tampa and beat the Buccaneers, it’s hard to rule them out at home against an NFC East rival. The point: all the Rams need is for Washington to lose once. That’s likely…even though they may be playing better than anyone right now.
Dallas (7-6): vs. Pittsburgh, vs. New Orleans, at Washington
-I tend to think the Cowboys are the biggest problem lurking out their for the Rams and this batshit scenario I’m laying out. They get two games at home, and they have some emotional fire after the tragedy this weekend in Dallas. One may expect the Steelers to go in there and take care of everything for the Rams this Sunday, but Pittsburgh is coming off that incredibly odd ass-kicking at home to the Chargers. The Saints can score points with anybody, but they’re trending down right now. But, even if the Cowboys win these next two home games, they still would have to win at Washington in Week 17. That will be no guarantee. On paper, they have the toughest teams to play against. But, the home field advantage combined with the chance that they may face a different Redskins’ team than the one that’s been playing so well as of late gives them an advantage. I’ll say this: I think a lot of the public wagering money will go on the Cowboys (+2) at home this weekend. And, when that happens…it’s quite likely the outcome goes the other way. That would be all the Rams need.
Minnesota (7-6): at the Rams, at Houston, vs. Green Bay
-Yeah, these guys are likely fucked. While the Bears are dicking around in the desert with whatever stranger gets to start for the Cardinals in Week 16, the Vikings will be in Houston. And, if they’re lucky to still be alive after the next two weeks, they have to finish off against the Packers. Best of luck. However, with that said, it’s irrelevant to the point of this column. The Rams have to beat the Vikings Sunday for any of this to matter. And, if they beat the Vikings Sunday, Minnesota has seven losses. They’re no longer an issue for the Rams. The Rams win out…and they’re 9-6-1. They’re ahead of even a Vikings’ team that would somehow win at Houston and at home against Green Bay. So, breaking down those games is irrelevant. The Rams have to beat Minnesota. And, if they do, they’re in the Rams’ rearview mirror.
So, just so you can see it all right there in front of you, here are the games that matter to the Rams for the rest of the way:
Vikings at Rams
Packers at Bears
Redskins at Browns
Seahawks at Bills
Steelers at Cowboys
Rams at Buccaneers
Saints at Cowboys
Redskins at Eagles
Vikings at Texans
Bears at Cardinals
49ers at Seahawks
Rams at Seahawks
Bears at Lions
Packers at Vikings
Eagles at Giants
Cowboys at Redskins
Now, I’ve made some absurd predictions on this site in the past and happened to hit. The 2006 World Championship…which I said I had a funny feeling about at the end of that September when the Cardinals were on fumes and looking like they weren’t even going to make the playoffs. And, perhaps the most random one and least likely of them all: Missouri ascending to #1 in 2007, which I laid out in mid-October after they lost at Oklahoma. I must have been eating some sick mushrooms that weekend.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can throw that out there here…and that’s mainly because of Week 17 at Seattle. I could definitely see the Rams winning this Sunday and the following weekend in Tampa Bay. But, that game at Seattle, which will obviously be a must-win, will be insanely difficult…unless the Seahawks suffer a major injury.
But, the reason I think so many Rams’ fans doubt the playoff chances (and I would put myself in that category before looking at what needs to happen and the schedules) is because they think the Rams need too much help for it to be real.
Well, they do need some help, but not as much as you’d think.
Perhaps you’ll disagree, but after looking at the teams they’re competing with, I believe that if the Rams win out, they’re likely going to the playoffs.
It’s not a guarantee, but I would bet on that.
The issue, of course, is the Rams winning out.
No matter what, at least for me, after participating in what was an exercise in boredom just going through the NFC contenders’ schedules, I now believe there’s a better chance than I did before. And, even if it’s still incredibly unlikely, it makes me more fired up for this Sunday.
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