Los Angeles Rams Week 17 Playoff Picture: How They Can Clinch the NFC West Title
What a difference three weeks makes.
Back in Week 14, as the Los Angeles Rams were preparing to face the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, it appeared the Rams were in desperation mode, in terms of having a shot of winning the NFC West.
The Rams were 8-4, having snapped a three-game losing streak the week before, and now trailed the surging Cardinals (10-4) by two games with five to go and having already lost the Cardinals back in Week 4, making the Monday night showdown an absolute must-win for the Rams.
And must-win, they did, 30-23, a statement game for the Rams and quarterback Matthew Stafford. And the Rams have just kept on winning, running their streak to four games entering Week 17.
But the shocking development in the NFC West is what has happened to Arizona. That loss to the Rams plunged the Cardinals into a three-game losing streak, and suddenly it’s the Rams who stand on the verge of a division title in Week 17. Here’s how they can clinch it:
A Rams win and a Cardinals loss and the NFC West title belongs to Los Angeles
The Rams don’t entirely control their own destiny heading into Week 17, but they can wrap up the NFC West division title with a victory over the Baltimore Ravens and another loss by the Cardinals, this time to the Dallas Cowboys, who are coming off a 56-14 victory over another reeling team, the Washington Football Team.
A Rams victory and Cardinals loss gives the Rams a two-game lead with one to play, and no matter how bad you were at math in school, those numbers are pretty obvious: the division is clinched. The reason the Rams can’t clinch with a victory alone in Week 17 is that the Cardinals own the division record tiebreaker between the two, after the teams split their head-to-head meetings this season.
In the two scenarios over the next two weeks where the Cardinals and Rams finish tied in the standings – Rams go 1-1, Cardinals go 2-0 or Rams go 0-2, Cardinals 1-1 – the Cardinals finish with a better record in the division and would overtake Los Angeles for the division title.
So, the Rams’ magic number to clinch the division is a combination of wins or Arizona losses equaling two.
The Rams are catching their Week 17 opponent at a perfect time
While the Rams ride into Baltimore on a four-game winning streak, things are falling apart just as quickly for the Ravens as they are for the Cardinals.
Since beating the Browns in Week 12 to go to 8-3, the Ravens have lost four games in a row and are now barely hanging on for a shot at a Wild Card berth, having dropped down to the No. 10 seed in the AFC. The Ravens are probably more likely to win their division, where the Cincinnati Bengals hold a one-game lead and must play the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17.
But with Lamar Jackson likely to miss another game with an ankle injury and Tyler Huntley coming off the Covid-19/reserve list, the Ravens are wobbling and must now deal with the ferocious Rams defense, which has allowed an average of just 15.75 points during its four-game winning streak.
The top seed in the NFC is still within the Rams’ reach, but only barely
The Rams can only clinch their division in Week 17, but they are still alive for the top overall seed in the NFC. Alive, but not well.
At 11-4, the Rams are tied with the Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one game behind the league-leading Green Bay Packers at 12-3.
The problem for the Rams – one that does not affect either Dallas or Tampa Bay – is that they lost to the Packers back in Week 12, the last game before they embarked on their current four-game winning streak. That loss leaves the Rams in the position where they must win their final two games and the Packers must lose to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, then the Detroit Lions in Week 18.
And even if that unlikely scenario played out, if the Cowboys also go 2-0 to end the season, they would have the tiebreaker advantage over the Rams because of better conference record.