It’s hard to believe that after dominating the New England Patriots three weeks ago that the Los Angeles Rams not only were unable to lock up the NFC West, but have yet to lock up a playoff spot as well. With a win against the Arizona Cardinals or Green Bay Packers win against the Chicago Bears, the Rams will make the postseason for the third time in the Sean McVay era.
Depending on how things play out on Sunday, the Rams can end up anywhere from the fifth to the seventh seed in the NFC playoff picture. Let’s break it down.
Games to Watch on Sunday
Green Bay @ Chicago
New Orleans @ Carolina
Seattle @ San Francisco
Dallas @ New York
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
Washington @ Philadelphia
NFC East Winner (WAS, NYG, DAL)
The Rams can still end up as the fifth seed which is the only way that they can play Washington, New York, or Dallas. With a win against the Eagles on Sunday night, Washington can lock up the NFC East, however, a loss in Philadelphia and the winner of the Giants and Cowboys would make the postseason.
In four games against the NFC East this season, the Rams went 4-0, including a 20-17 win against the Cowboys, 17-9 win against the Giants, and 30-10 win against Washington. Aside from making another potential east coast trip, this might be the most attractive matchup for the Rams.
To lock up the fifth seed, the Rams need to win, and then with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the fifth seed would belong to Los Angeles. Both teams would finish 10-6 which would mean the head-to-head tiebreaker would come into play. The Rams beat the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football earlier this season, giving them the advantage.
Breakdown: LAR Win + TB Loss
Green Bay Packers
The Rams have one scenario, albeit unlikely, that they would have to travel to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers. In order for this to happen, the Packers would first have to lose to Chicago. However, the Packers have won eight of their last nine games against the Bears.
On top of a Packers loss to the Bears, the Saints would have to beat the Panthers, the Seahawks would have to beat the 49ers, and the Buccaneers would have to beat the Falcons. This would make New Orleans the one seed, Seattle the two seed, Green Bay the three seed, and the Rams the sixth seed.
This is obviously not an ideal scenario as the Packers have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season. Ideally, the Rams would like to wait until at least the NFC Championship game to travel to the frozen tundra of Green Bay.
Breakdown: LAR Win + GB Loss + NO Win + SEA win + TB win
A third matchup against the division-rival Seahawks and a second trip to Seattle in three weeks might be the most likely scenario for the Rams. There are a couple of different scenarios for this one, but essentially, if the Rams beat the Cardinals and then “chalk” occurs on Sunday, the Rams will play Seattle for the third time.
By chalk, what I mean is the Saints, Packers, Buccaneers, and Rams all win in Week 17. The Rams can also play Seattle as the seventh seed which would mean the Rams lose to the Cardinals, but the Packers win, getting Los Angeles into the postseason and then the Saints lose. This would make the Seahawks the two seed and the Rams the seventh seed.
6 seed – LAR Win + GB Win + NO Win + TB Win
7 seed – LAR Loss + SEA Win + GB Win + CAR Win
New Orleans Saints
The final matchup that the Rams can achieve on Sunday is a 2018 NFC Championship rematch in New Orleans against the Saints. In order for this to happen, the Rams must win, and then “chalk” must occur EXCEPT with a Panthers win over the Saints. This would knock the Saints into the three-seed and the Rams would have the sixth seed.
Like Seattle, the Rams can also play the Saints as the seventh seed. This would require a Rams loss, a Packers win, and a Saints win to lock up the two seed. A matchup against the Saints is the next likliest matchup along with Seattle.
6 seed – LAR win + NO loss + TB Win + SEA Win
7 seed – LAR Loss + GB Win + NO Win
Missing the Playoffs Completely
Despite needing to win to make the playoffs, the Rams still have a 90+ percent chance of making the postseason. The reason for that isn’t that a Rams win is a sure thing, it’s that the Packers still have something to play for against the Bears. It’s hard to think that after sitting at 9-4, the Rams can miss the playoffs completely. However, it is possible. All that would need to happen would be the Rams to lose and the Bears to win. This would give the Cardinals and Bears the tiebreaker over the Rams in the similar opponents’ tiebreaker.
Breakdown: LAR Loss + CHI Win
Most Favorable Matchup
It’s hard not to say that the most favorable matchup is against the NFC East winner. The team that wins that division will have the worst record in the postseason and the Rams went 3-0 against the teams that are still alive for the playoffs.
A matchup against Seattle would give the Rams a team that they are familiar with and arguably better than. The Rams outgained Seattle on offense in their Week 16 meeting, however, turnovers and inability to punch the ball in the end zone proved to be the team’s downfall. It’s hard not to want this matchup as nothing would be sweeter than knocking Seattle out of the postseason on their home field.
New Orleans has a recent history of choking in the postseason. Last year they lost to Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings. In 2018, they blew a 13-0 lead at home to the Rams in the NFC Championship game. Lastly, the year before they lost to Case Keenum and the Vikings. Plus, the Saints could be without Alvin Kamara as the star running-back tested positive for COVID-19.
Who do you want the Rams to play wild card weekend?