06

Two seasons ago, when Steve Spagnuolo was head coach, the Rams entered the final four games of the season with a 6-6 record and had a shot at winning the division.
 
With a record of 7-8, they traveled to Seattle, where a victory would have won the division. However, in a nationally televised Sunday night game, the offense did little, and the Seahawks won the game and the division with a 7-9 record.
 
Of course, that was then and this is now. This time, the Rams are 5-6-1, and while the 49ers are 8-3-1 and Seattle 7-5, the postseason is a mathematical possibility, although a longshot. While most of the talk involves being a wild card, the Rams could win the NFC West by sweeping the last four games and having San Francisco win no more than one game and Seattle win two.
 
Currently, there are seven teams in the NFC with five, six or seven victories. From the Rams' perspective, there can be no tiebreakers for any spot, except in a division tie with the 49ers. The Rams would win a tiebreaker with San Francisco by virtue of their win Sunday along with the tie the teams played on Nov. 11.
 
Although no one wanted to talk specifically about the playoffs, defensive end Chris Long did say, "I mean, that's where we planned to be. Consistency's going to be a key here. We really have to be able to move on and focus on our next opponent."
 
As coach Jeff Fisher said, "This team's focused on Buffalo. That's our next opponent."
 
After all, everyone knows four games can't be won in one week and that a loss to the Bills would make it improbable that the Rams could make the postseason with an 8-7-1 record.
 
And, of course, no one can predict what all the other teams in the race will do.
 
As Fisher noted, "There's too much that can happen right now. I don't even know what the record is for some teams in the (conference), so we just go play. That's it. Those things take care of themselves.
 
"We have a huge challenge this week. We've only won one on the road this far. We're playing a team that's very, very similar to ourselves - records similar, statistically they're similar. They play well at home and they're still in the hunt, so we've got our hands full."
 
Of course, after this week, each team the Rams play also has playoff aspirations: home against Minnesota, at Tampa Bay and another season-ending game at Seattle.
 
Linebacker James Laurinaitis concluded to the Post, "We're not trying to look too far ahead. Just trying to win them one at a time and the next challenge is Buffalo. So we've got to relax, recover, watch some film, and move on."
 
Let the cliches begin.
 
Speaking of clichés: After the win over San Francisco, Long talked about the disappointing loss to the Jets, which was the game after the tie against the 49ers.
 
He said to the Post, "I know it's cliche to say we had a hangover from a game, (but) we just didn't come out with the same intensity in the next game. So we need to bring it this next week."
 
Coach Jeff Fisher didn't agree with Long. Fisher said, "He's speaking for himself. We had chances in the Jet game that we didn't take advantage of. We had mistakes, we had opportunities, we had a kickoff return called back. We had those kinds of things. It wasn't a matter of us not fully recovering emotionally and physically from the length of the game. It was just a matter of us executing."
 
Monday, Fisher was asked if the team might think it has "arrived" after beating the 49ers. He said, "By no means are they going to be overconfident, if that's what you're suggesting. They have confidence in what they're doing, but they also respect each week's opponent.
 
"You can take a lot of positive things from what's happened. We've won two in a row now; we've won two in the division in a row. We're undefeated in the division. But, that does you no good unless you win the next game. We've done some good things, but we've also let some games slip away early that we should not have. The focus continues to be, bring the young players around, try to minimize ... the rookie mistakes, the young-player mistakes, and then prepare yourself for the next opponent."

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