The Rams (9-6) looked good for an NFC playoff berth as either NFC West champions or a NFC wild-card team just two weeks ago. But stunning consecutive losses to the Jets and Seahawks have them on the brink of sudden elimination in Week 17.
Sean McVay is faced with additional challenges. Starting quarterback Jared Goff will miss the 2020 NFL regular-season finale with a broken thumb, turning over the offense to John Wolford under center. At the same time, the team will be down two young running backs, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, who both have ankle injuries. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was placed on the COVID-19 list, so the Rams might be without him, too.
With their loss in Seattle last week, the Rams handed the Seahawks the division title. Here’s what Los Angeles, the current NFC No. 6 must have happen in Week 17 to get in:
1. Rams beat or tie the Cardinals
The Rams would get in with a home win over Arizona. That would put them at 10-6, a record that neither the Cardinals nor Bears can match. The same goes for getting to 9-6-1, as both the Cardinals and Bears (both 8-7) already have too many losses.
There’s a chance the Rams can move up to the No. 5 seed again in that scenario. Should the Rams win and the Buccaneers lose to the Falcons to fall to 10-6, the Rams would jump back up as they have the head-to-head tiebreaker from having beaten the Buccaneers earlier in the season.
2. Bears lose or tie to the Packers
Should the Rams lose to the Cardinals to drop to 9-7, then they need help from the top-seeded Packers to make the playoffs. In this scenario, the Bears are either 8-8 or 8-7-1.
That would mean the Rams can still get as the No. 7 seed with a loss, with the Cardinals moving up to No. 6 and the Bears being eliminated, either a full-game or half-game behind.
The Rams have the most daunting defense in the NFC should they get into the playoffs, but go figure, a McVay team might not make the playoffs because of offensive woes tied to both quarterback and running back.