The Los Angeles Rams have clinched a playoff spot. However, there are a plethora of different possibilities for who the Rams can play in the first round. They’ll play either the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, or Dallas Cowboys in the first round.
When it comes to playoff football, you play who you play. However, playing the right opponent can certainly make things easier. Last season for example, the Buccaneers played the Washington Football Team before traveling to New Orleans to play a Saints team with an out of his prime Drew Brees before playing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Buccaneers were able to feel their way in the postseason and work their way to a tougher matchup.
Let’s rank the potential first round opponents from most ideal to least ideal for the Rams and how they could play them.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles should be the matchup that Los Angeles Rams fans want to see next week. The Eagles are 0-6 against teams with a winning record this season and have a very limited offense. The Eagles are fairly one dimensional as most of their success comes from running the football. Meanwhile, the Rams have been one of the best teams at stopping the run this season.
While the Eagles seem to have a good future, Jalen Hurts still can’t be trusted and Nick Sirianni is a rookie head coach. They’ve had a good run this season, but their most impressive win came in a 40-29 victory over the Saints led by Trevor Siemian.
The Rams can only play the Eagles as the number two seed which the Rams can clinch with a win over the 49ers. There are five scenarios in which the Rams can play the Eagles next week.
Scenario 1: LAR W + ATL W + DAL W + TB W + ARI W
Scenario 2: LAR W + ATL W + DAL W + TB W + SEA W
Scenario 3: LAR W + ATL W + DAL W + CAR W + ARI W
Scenario 4: LAR W + ATL W + DAL W + CAR W + SEA W
Scenario 5: SF W + NO W + PHI W + CAR W + SEA W
Essentially what the Rams need is a win over the 49ers and then wins from the Falcons and Cowboys to draw the Eagles in the wild card round.
2. New Orleans Saints
If the Los Angeles Rams end up as the number two seed, the Saints might be the most likely first round opponent for the Rams. Like the Eagles, the Saints have a very limited offense. However, unlike the Eagles, the Saints have a defense that can blow up a ball game.
The Saints have the fourth rated defense according to DVOA and are number two in EPA per play. According to EPA, the Saints have the fourth ranked pass defense and the top run defense in the NFL. The Saints rank 10th in turnover differential and have only given the ball away 18 times this season.
This is a matchup that the Rams should win, however, the last time these two teams played in the postseason, the infamous DPI non-call occurred. There’s a history between these team and that’s not necessarily what you want in the postseason. There are eight scenarios in which the Rams would play the Saints.
Scenario 1: LAR W + NO W + DAL W + TB W + ARI W
Scenario 2: LAR W+ NO W + DAL W + TB W + SEA W
Scenario 3: LAR W + NO W + DAL W + CAR W +ARI W
Scenario 4: LAR W + NO W + DAL W + CAR W + SEA W
Scenario 5: LAR W + NO W + PHI W + TB W + ARI W
Scenario 6: LAR W + NO W + PHI W + TB W + SEA W
Scenario 7: LAR W + NO W + PHI W + CAR W + ARI W
Scenario 8: LAR W + NO W + PHI W + CAR W + SEA W
There are a lot of scenarios there, but all of them have just one thing in common. Essentially, if the Rams and Saints win on Sunday, they’ll play each other at SoFi Stadium next week.
3. Arizona Cardinals
The Eagles and Saints are without a doubt the two most favorable opponents for the Los Angeles Rams in the first round. Both of those will happen if the Rams take care of business on Sunday and beat the 49ers. After that however, is when things get tricky. The third most favorable opponent for the Rams might be the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season. They have however lost three of their last four games and will be without DeAndre Hopkins. That is a huge hit on the Cardinals offense.
While teams might not trust Matthew Stafford in the playoffs, how much can we trust Kyler Murray and Kliff Klingsbury? Despite splitting the two meetings this season, the Rams at least have historical success against the Cardinals. Unlike the first meeting, Arizona won’t sneak up on the Rams again. There are three scenarios in which the Rams would play the Cardinals in the first round.
Scenario 1: SF W + NO W + DAL W + CAR W + SEA W
Scenario 2: SF W + ATL W + DAL W + TB W + SEA W
Scenario 3: SF W + ATL W + PHI W + TB W + SEA W
The only way that the Rams can play the Cardinals in the first round of the playoff is as the number four seed and if the Cardinals are the fifth seed. The only way for this to happen is if the Los Angeles Rams and Cardinals both lose on Sunday.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Like the Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys have been one of the best teams in the NFC this season. However, they haven’t been able to fully put it together outside of a 56-14 thrashing of the Washington Football Team. The Cowboys offense is dangerous, but mental mistakes have cost them at times. However, on defense, this might be one of the best groups in the NFL.
The Cowboys lead the NFL in takeaways with 33 and have two young stars in Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons. The speed of the Cowboys defense could give the Rams offense a lot of trouble. However, the Cowboys haven’t necessarily beaten anybody worth noting. The best wins might be against the Patriots in overtime and against the Saints. There are eight scenarios in which the Rams would play the Cowboys.
Scenario 1: SF W + NO W + DAL W + TB W + ARI W
Scenario 2: SF W + NO W + DAL W + CAR W + ARI W
Scenario 3: SF W + NO W + PHI W + TB W + ARI W
Scenario 4: SF W + NO W + PHI W + CAR W + ARI W
Scenario 5: SF W + ATL W + DAL W + TB W + ARI W
Scenario 6: SF W + ATL W + DAL W + CAR W + ARI W
Scenario 7: SF W + ATL W + PHI W + TB W + ARI W
Scenario 8: SF W + ATL W + PHI W + CAR W +ARI W
The Los Angeles Rams can only play the Cowboys as the number five seed. This means that the Rams would be traveling to Arlington to play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. There are eight scenarios, but the basics are, if the Rams lose and the Cardinals win, the Rams will be playing the Cowboys.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Obviously, the opponent that the Los Angeles Rams would least want to see is the San Francisco 49ers. These two teams face each other this week and it’s never good when teams have to play each other two weeks in a row. The Rams haven’t beaten the 49ers since 2018 and San Francisco simply matches up well against the Rams.
The good news is, with a win on Sunday, the Rams can essentially knock the 49ers out of the playoffs. Where things get dicey is if the Rams do lose to the 49ers and get swept for the third straight season. There are eight scenarios in which the Rams could play the 49ers.
Scenario 1: LAR W +ATL W + PHI W + TB W +ARI W
Scenario 2: LAR W + ATL W + PHI W + TB W + SEA W
Scenario 3: LAR W + ATL W + PHI W + CAR W + ARI W
Scenario 4: LAR W + ATL W + PHI W + CAR W + SEA W
Scenario 5: SF W + NO W + DAL W + CAR W + SEA W
Scenario 6: SF W + NO W + PHI W + TB W + SEA W
Scenario 7: SF W + ATL + DAL W + CAR W + SEA W
Scenario 8: SF W + ATL W + PHI W + CAR W + SEA W
The Rams could play the 49ers as either the two or three seed. To play the 49ers as the two seed, the Rams need a win and then the 49ers would hope for a win from the Falcons. To play the 49ers as the three seed, the Rams would need to lose to the 49ers and then the Seahawks would need to beat the Cardinals.
Best Road to the Super Bowl
As mentioned, when it comes to the playoffs, you play who you play. Good teams make the playoffs and at some point, you’re going to have to beat some good teams. However, there is such thing as a favorable path which I will outline below:
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Arizona Cardinals
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Philadelphia Eagles
Wild Card Round: 2. Rams vs. 7. Eagles
As mentioned earlier, this might be the most favorable matchup for the Los Angeles Rams in the opening round of the playoffs. The Eagles are built well up front, but this is a team that is 0-6 against teams with a winning record this season. When your most impressive win comes against a Trevor Siemian led Saints team, it shows.
The Eagles run the ball well and it is the centerpiece of their offense. However, the Rams defense does a very good job when it comes to stopping the run. There are a lot of questions surrounding Matthew Stafford in the postseason, but a matchup against the Eagles could get him his first playoff win.
Divisional Round: 2. Rams vs. 3. Buccaneers
As mentioned, at some point the Los Angeles Rams will have to play a good team. The Buccaneers are the defending Super Bowl champions. With that said, these teams have played twice over the last two years and the Rams have won both games. In fact, one of Stafford’s best games this season came against the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay lost Chris Godwin and they just cut Antonio Brown. We’ll see how much that effects Tom Brady and their offense. This game would be in Los Angeles which works in the Rams’ favor.
NFC Championship: 2. Rams vs. 5. Cardinals
If the Los Angeles Rams can avoid going to Green Bay at any point in these playoffs, that will be a win in itself. As the number two seed in this situation, the Rams would be at home until at least the NFC Championship game. With a win in the wild card round, the Cardinals would go to Green Bay. The Cardinals have the best road record in the NFL and almost beat Green Bay earlier in the season in Arizona.
If the Cardinals were to beat the Packers, this would send the Cardinals to Los Angeles for the NFC Championship game. The Rams lost to the Cardinals at SoFi earlier in the season, but Stafford played his best game against Arizona just a few weeks ago. These two teams know each other well and would make for a great NFC Championship game.