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"Incredible opportunity": Rams have chance to capture NFC West title, No. 2 seed in NFC at home in Week 18

Rams players and coaches have a common saying throughout the regular season when asked about that week's opponent:

It's the biggest game because it's the next one.

The next one, though, is the 2021 regular season finale, and with plenty at stake.

With a win over the 49ers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, the Rams can not only win the NFC West division title, but also clinch the No. 2 seed in the conference playoff picture, which would allow them to host at least one playoff game in the very stadium.

"Incredible opportunity," Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp said during a video conference Monday. "Week 18, playing for something as big as the division title and being able to do it at SoFi Stadium, there's a lot going into it. It's the most important game of the year because it's our next one, and we're excited about attacking that opportunity. It'll be a be a fun week."

The Rams had an opportunity to clinch the division in Week 17 with a win and a Cardinals loss, but the Cardinals edged the Cowboys 25-22, leading to this week's scenario.

The division-rival 49ers will be equally motivated this week, given they are fighting for their playoff lives. They need a win and a Saints loss in order to avoid being eliminated from postseason contention.

"This is a tough 49ers (team)," Rams outside linebacker Von Miller said. "We've lost the last five (games against the 49ers), so it is a tough game. We're at home and it'd be exciting just to think about it. Just think about the possibilities either way it goes, you don't want to go out there and lose. You want to go out there and win. So either way we think about it, it's motivating to have this opportunity to go out and play and win."

For Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, such an accomplishment would mark a career first. During his first 12 NFL seasons with the Lions, Stafford saw them finish second in the NFC North four times.

"Yeah, I've been close," Stafford said. "I had chances to win it and didn't - whether it's all the way up to the last week of the season or not. But it would be accomplishing one of the goals that you set out at the beginning of every season. You want to give yourself a chance to make the playoffs. We've accomplished that goal. You want a chance to win the division. We've got that chance in front of us and get to do it kind of on our terms. We win the game, we win the division and that's one of those things that's a rare opportunity to get. And when you get that chance, you want to go out there and accomplish it. So it would be great. And then we know there's a bunch of football after that, hopefully, and hopefully we play at a high level."

Los Angeles rides a five-game win streak into Sunday's game, fueled by mental toughness and resilience forced in the face of adverse circumstances.

They'll need that same fortitude again as they close out the regular season and look to accomplish the aforementioned goals.

"I think we've found different ways to win football games," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "I do still think (in spite) of us turning the ball over the last three weeks and finding a way to win, I think that's outstanding. I think that shows great resilience, mental toughness. I think the experience that a lot of our key players have developed over the course of their career has led to that mental toughness. I do think it's going to be important for us to make sure that we minimize those to be able to play our best ball, to try to win this division against an excellent opponent this weekend."

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