Coming off consecutive wins to reach the bye at 5-3, the Rams have earned the right to start thinking about the postseason…or at least they've earned their fans the right to start thinking about the postseason.
Here's the current NFC Playoff picture, with seeding.
1. San Francisco 7-0
2. New Orleans 7-1
3. Green Bay 7-1
4. Dallas 4-3
WC1. Seattle 6-2
WC2. Minnesota 6-2
Starting with a Week 10 trip to Pittsburgh, the Rams will attempt to overtake those six teams. In the meantime, let's evaluate their chances, starting with the NFC West race.
*Note: We're not far enough along to consider tiebreakers beyond head-to-head. However, bear in mind that all three of the Rams losses are conferences losses, and therefore year-end tiebreaking scenarios aren't likely to break their way. All playoff odds courtesy of Football Outsiders.
Check out the best photos from the Los Angeles Rams Week 8 victory in London over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Schedule: @ARI, SEA, ARI, GB, @BAL, @NO, ATL, Rams, @SEA
Odds to Make Playoffs: 98.2%
Odds to Win Division: 86.8%
Running down San Francisco only becomes possible if the Rams win the rematch at Levi's. So there's one loss.
Let's also assume the Niners split with the Seahawks. There's a second loss.
If the Rams were to win out, they'd still need San Francisco to take two more on the chin. And if the Rams were to finish 12-4, San Francisco would have to lose three more.
Could the 49ers drop two or three of these games: @ARI, ARI, GB, @BAL, @NO, ATL?
It's possible. I'd pick out the Packers and Saints as the most likely candidates, with the Ravens next in line.
I'm also curious if the extremely early bye in Week 4 catches up with San Francisco as we get into November and December.
Schedule: TB, @SF, BYE, @PHI, MIN, @Rams, @CAR, ARI, SF
Odds to Make Playoffs: 55.1%
Odds to Win Division: 10.7%
Again, this is likely only relevant if the Rams win their home game with Seattle. That would mean each team has three losses, and the question becomes, which can manage its remaining slate best?
Seattle's other seven games are split four home, three away, and against opponents with a combined winning percentage of .633.
L.A.'s other seven games are split four home, three away, and against opponents with a combined winning percentage of .569.
And here's where you think, "If only that 44-yard field goal against the Seahawks…"
Schedule: ATL, @TB, CAR, @ATL, SF, IND, @TEN, @CAR
Odds to Make Playoffs: 96.5%
Odds to Win Division: 91.0%
New Orleans is on a bye, with Drew Brees back (not that they missed him), and an extremely favorable second half schedule. The other three teams in their division – against whom they still play five contests – all have losing records.
Even with the head-to-head tie breaker in hand, the Rams aren't catching the Saints.
But just for kicks, say the Rams win out to finish 13-3. They would need New Orleans to lose twice. San Francisco is one. What's the other? One of the Carolina matchups? Home to Indianapolis?
Okay, the Saints finishing 13-3 or 12-4 is unlikely but fathomable, as is the possibility of the Rams running the table.
Schedule: @LAC, CAR, BYE, @SF, @NYG, WAS, CHI, @MIN, @DET
Odds to Make Playoffs: 90.7%
Odds to Win Division: 72.7%
Thanks for nothing, Kansas City. With respect to the Rams playoff odds, the AFC has been entirely uncooperative this season.
It looks like the Packers are going 14-2 or 13-3 in Matt LaFleur's debut season, 12-4 at worst.
Here's a potentially tough scenario looming in Week 12: It may be in the Rams best interest for San Francisco to beat Green Bay.
If you can't overtake the 49ers to win the West, at least take their help, right?
That would only be the case if the Packers aren't going to be the North champion, though. Because if they do hold off Minnesota for the division, Green Bay would be locked into a playoff spot with home field advantage in a potential Wild Card game against the Rams, regardless of records.
So rooting for the Niners and increased odds of going to Lambeau in January? That's a bridge too far.
Then again, it's not like Minneapolis is a choice destination, either. But hey, at least it's indoors.
Schedule: @KC, @DAL, DEN, BYE, @SEA, DET, @LAC, GB, CHI
Odds to Make Playoffs: 72.1%
Odds to Win Division: 24.2%
And now that you see what's in front of the Vikings, you probably realize that Green Bay is going to win the North.
Minnesota could continue to play very well and finish 11-5. It feels like 10-6 is totally reasonable, with 9-7 a real danger for the Vikings.
This is where the playoff picture starts to open up for the Rams as a Wild Card contender. If L.A. can win six of eight games after the bye, there's a good chance Minnesota finishes below them in the standings.
Along the way, it'd be great if the Vikings could put that bye week to good use and earn a win in Seattle.
Schedule: @NYG, MIN, @DET, @NE, BUF, @CHI, Rams, @PHI, WAS
Odds to Make Playoffs: 69.0% Odds to Win Division: 65.7%
Either the Cowboys or the Eagles are getting in the dance, but will there be room for both?
It's probable that the East champion will be the four-seed in the NFC, hosting a Wild Card. As of now, that's Dallas, especially with a head-to-head win over Philadelphia.
I think a return trip to Jerry World in January would be a great outcome for the Rams (they also play in the Metroplex in Week 15), especially if the other potential Wild Card destinations are New Orleans or Green Bay.
Carolina (4-3): With two games left against the Saints, plus road trips to Green Bay and Indianapolis, the Panthers are not currently a threat. Especially when you bake in the head-to-head that the Rams hold thanks to a Week One victory in Charlotte.
Detroit (3-3-1): The Lions may be better than their current record, but their next three games are at Oakland, at Chicago, and versus Dallas. Win two of those three, and we'll talk.
Philadelphia (4-4): The Eagles are the team I'd be checking for in my rearview mirror. Especially because the East is far from decided, and they still get a home game against the Cowboys. I think they beat the Bears at home this weekend, then spend the bye week gearing up for a massive home date with the Patriots.