St. Louis Rams: Can They Catch the 49ers in the NFC West?
I'm not saying it will be done. But after putting on my blue-and-gold-tinted glasses, I believe that it can be done.
Jeff Fisher doesn't want to talk about the playoffs. But I will.
The Rams are undefeated within their own division. At 3-0-1 within the NFC West, they have more divisional wins than any other team in the NFC.
There are only six other NFL teams undefeated within their own division. Those would include the New England Patriots (overall record 8-3), Baltimore Ravens (9-2), Houston Texans (10-1), Denver Broncos (8-3), Green Bay Packers (7-4) and 49ers (8-2-1).
Those teams have a combined record of 50-15-1. The Rams, standing at 4-6-1, sure do look like the oddity of the group.
The Rams are four games behind the 49ers with five to play. A tall task indeed.
Plus, there are those pesky Seattle Seahawks standing between the Rams and 49ers within the divisional standings.
Here's a five-step plan for the Rams to claim the NFC West crown.
1) Beat San Francisco On Sunday
This should go without saying. If the Rams lose to the 49ers this week at the Edward Jones Dome, then they will be officially eliminated from the divisional race.
The wild card would still loom, but the Rams would have to leap seven teams for the final NFC wild card. Even an optimistic fool like myself doesn't see that happening.
If the Rams defeat the 49ers (no ties, please), they would move to within three games of the divisional lead, with four games left on the schedule.
Will the Rams defeat the 49ers on Sunday?
It's a first step. It's the most important step.
2) San Francisco Loses On the Road
Presumably after losing to the Rams this week, the 49ers would be left with two road games on their schedule.
Both are incredibly tough matchups: Week 15 in New England; Week 16 in Seattle.
The Patriots are one of the NFL's most dominant and explosive teams. They rank first overall in points, first in touchdowns, first in point differential, first in total yards and first in turnover differential.
Over the last four games, the Patriots have put up 49, 59, 37 and 45 points, respectively. San Francisco averages 25 points per week. The Patriots have scored fewer than 29 points only twice this season. Coincidentally, those two times came in losses against NFC West teams.
After losing to the Patriots, the 49ers will have to travel across country to play the Seahawks in Seattle. The 49ers will be on short rest, as the Patriots game just happens to be on Sunday night, meaning the team probably won't fly out of Boston until well after midnight.
The Seahawks are arguably the NFL's best team at home. If the Seahawks' season could be summarized in one sentence, it would be: They win at home and lose on the road.
Seattle is a perfect 5-0 at home this season, allowing less than 14 points per game in those five home wins. Their record will most likely improve to 6-0 once they defeat the hapless Cardinals in Week 14.
3) The Rams Must Win 3 of Their Final 4 Games
I'm not going to ask that the Rams be perfect and close out the season with a six-game win streak. That would be crazy.
I will ask that they find a way to win three games against their final four opponents (at Buffalo, vs Minnesota, at Tampa Bay, at Seattle).
It should go without saying that the Rams must defeat the reeling Bills, who have lost four of their last five games.
The Rams must also hold serve at home against the Vikings. Surely, that's not an easy request but divisional champions win games on their home turf.
Assuming the Rams have to lose one more game the rest of the season, I'll give that loss to the Buccaneers. Tampa looks really good as of late. They are a one-point loss last week to Atlanta from being on a five-game winning streak.
4) San Francisco Loses at Home
If I'm forcing the Rams to give a game away during the final stretch of the season, then the 49ers are going to have to give two away, on top of the two road losses in New England and Seattle.
This is arguably the least likely step of the plan. The 49ers must lose to Miami (Week 14) and Arizona (Week 17) at home.
How will the Rams finish the 2012 season?
The Dolphins and Cardinals are not particularly good teams, with a combined record of 9-13.
Arizona's season is officially in shambles. After starting the season 4-0, they've lost seven straight.
At some point, Arizona has to win another game, right? Let's make it matter against San Francisco.
If San Francisco wins either of these games, the Rams must not lose another game the rest of the year. If the 49ers win both of these games, then the Rams are eliminated.
5) Defeat Seattle Week 17
If everything falls into place during our plan's first four steps, there will be a severe case of deja vu for the Rams when they travel to Seattle for the final week of the regular season.
Week 17. The NFC West on the line. Revenge is sweet elixir.
Assuming the Seahawks don't run the table over the season's final five weeks, the Rams will be in a position to overtake the Seahawks and 49ers, and (wait for it) win the NFC West.
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