How Do the LA Rams Make (or Miss) the NFL Playoffs in Week 17?

The Los Angeles Rams have certainly been quite the enigma in 2020, haven’t they? In wins over teams bound for the NFL playoffs such as the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, victories that came in back-to-back weeks, they’ve looked incredible.

But they’ve also looked atrocious at times, the biggest example being just two weeks ago when they were defeated by the previously winless New York Jets, a loss that essentially killed any chance they had to win the NFC West, a chance that was officially put to rest in a loss to the Seahawks this past Sunday.

Before their matchup with the Jets, the Rams seemed like a shoo-in for the NFL playoffs and still control their own destiny in that department heading into a Week 17 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. But they’ll also be playing that game without Jared Goff and could find themselves on the outside looking in as it pertains to the playoffs when all is said and done on Sunday.

So let’s take a quick look at the scenarios in which the LA Rams could make or miss the NFL playoffs.

If the Rams beat the Cardinals, they’re into the NFL playoffs but they’ll have to do it without Jared Goff

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If the LA Rams want to get into the NFL playoffs, all they have to do is beat the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sunday. If that happens, it doesn’t matter whatsoever what the Chicago Bears do. The Rams, Cardinals, and Bears are fighting for the final two wild-card spots in the NFC and somebody is going to be left out. But if the Rams win or tie, they’re in.

The Rams beat the Cardinals, 38-28, back in Week 13 but the Week 17 matchup will look much different as Jared Goff, who torched Arizona four weeks ago with 351 yards, will be on the sidelines with a broken thumb, an injury he suffered in LA’s loss to Seattle this past Sunday.

In his place under center will be John Wolford, who went undrafted in 2018 out of Wake Forest and will be making his NFL debut. It was thought that Kyler Murray might miss the game with a leg injury for the Cardinals, who are in a must-win situation of their own, but it seems that the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is good to go.

So what happens if LA loses?

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So let’s say the Arizona Cardinals beat the LA Rams? What then?

Well, in that scenario, a loss wouldn’t matter if the Chicago Bears either tie or lose to the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on Sunday. Luckily, for the Rams anyway, not so much for the Bears, likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers still have something to play for as they’re attempting to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC, which would earn them a bye for wild-card weekend.

So now let’s take a look at the worst-case scenario for the Rams.

How do the LA Rams completely miss the NFL playoffs?

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams logo | Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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So what would need to happen for the LA Rams to completely miss out on the NFL playoffs for the second consecutive season?

Well, it obviously all starts with them losing to the Cardinals. If that occurs AND the Bears beat the Packers, the Rams are going home for the year. Again, it’s going to be tough for the Bears to beat the Packers, who are on a five-game winning streak and fresh off a 40-14 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans. However, the Bears have won three straight and have averaged 36.7 points per game.

So in this scenario, the Rams, Cardinals, and Bears would all finish with the same 9-7 record, which makes LA’s win over Chicago back in Week 7 meaningless. With these three teams tied like this (if it happens), the first tiebreaker used would be between the Cardinals and Rams because they’re in the same division, which would go to the Cardinals as they would have a better record against the NFC West.

The Bears would then win a tiebreaker with the Cardinals due to having a better record against common opponents. So if the Cardinals and Bears both win on Sunday, Chicago would be the No. 6 seed, Arizona would be the No. 7 seed, and the LA Rams would be out.

Easy enough, right?

Scores and schedules courtesy of NFL.com