New York (10-5) at St. Louis (7-8)

Fair Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Jan 2, 2005
  • TV: CBS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

It sounds like the St. Louis Rams are glad it came down to this.

The New York Jets sound like they knew it would.

With plenty at stake for both teams, the Jets and Rams make their final bids for playoff berths when they close the regular season in St. Louis.

St. Louis still has a chance to be a division champion. New York is in position for a wild-card berth.

Or, both teams could end up home when the playoffs begin.

“After all the drama we’ve been through this year, to be in position to potentially get into the playoffs, how awesome is that?” St. Louis coach Mike Martz said. “We will show up this week and lay it all out there.”

Martz’s team needs more help than the Jets, who simply need to win to wrap up a spot in the postseason. They could have done it last week, but were forced to wait after they were routed 23-7 by the New England Patriots.

So New York again goes into its final game needing a win for a playoff spot. That was the case in 2001 and 2002, and the Jets came through with victories both times.

“Maybe we are a drama-filled team,” running back LaMont Jordan said. “Maybe we like those exciting finishes. I am quite sure it gives some fans some heart attacks, and I am pretty sure there have been a couple of TVs in New York City thrown out some windows. But everything that has happened from Week 1 to Week 16 would be forgotten if we make the playoffs.”

A sometimes disappointing season would also be forgotten in St. Louis if the Rams make the playoffs. They still have two ways to reach the postseason, but need help in both of them.

The Rams own the tiebreaker over Seattle and would be NFC West champions if they win and the Seahawks lose to Atlanta. The only way they can get in as a wild-card team is if they win and Minnesota loses, or if they win and the New Orleans-Carolina game ends in a tie.

New York has the luxury of knowing all it has to do is win. A victory gives the Jets the fifth seed and a first-round game in San Diego, where they beat the AFC West champion Chargers in the second week of the season.

The Jets can also get in if they lose, but they would need a loss or tie by Buffalo or Denver. That seems unlikely, because the Bills are playing Pittsburgh and the Broncos face Indianapolis, a pair of playoff-bound teams who will rest some starters because they have nothing to play for.

A victory won’t be easy for the Jets, who will be trying to snap the Rams’ 13-game home winning streak in regular-season games in December and January. That streak dates back to 1998—even before St. Louis became an NFL power that made two Super Bowl appearances in three years.

“It’s great,” Jets coach Herman Edwards said. “It will be loud; it’s a playoff atmosphere. It’s everything you can ask for as a coach and as a player. I love it, that’s why you do this. You want these moments for your football team.”

A win seems even more unlikely without better play from Chad Pennington, who continues to play with an injured throwing shoulder that forced him to miss three games in November. He struggled last week, throwing a pair of interceptions, losing a fumble and getting sacked three times.

Meanwhile, the Rams’ Marc Bulger was sharp in his return after missing a pair of games with his own shoulder injury. He was 20-of-27 for 225 yards and a touchdown as St. Louis beat Philadelphia 20-7 on Monday night to keep its playoff hopes alive.

St. Louis also got a spark from Steven Jackson, who rushed for 148 yards.

That victory came against a Philadelphia team that had already clinched home-field advantage and rested many of its key players. This time, the Rams face a team that needs a win as badly as they do.

“At least we’re not completely out of it,” Bulger said. “Teams with eight losses usually are. It’s nice having something to play for.”

Though the Jets have one of the better defenses in the league, Bulger should have some time to throw because New York’s best pass rusher, John Abraham, is expected to miss his fourth straight game because of a knee injury.

The Rams have beaten the Jets six straight times.

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