The Rams’ four-game winning streak couldn’t have come at a better time, going undefeated in December and taking control of the NFC West for the first time all season. With their win over the Vikings on Sunday, the Rams made a big jump in the NFC playoff picture, going from a wild-card team to a division leader.
If they win their last two games, the worst the Rams would finish is third in the NFC. That’s easier said than done with the Ravens and 49ers up next, but they’re now in a great spot in the playoff picture.
Here’s an updated look at the standings following most of Week 16’s action, with only the Saints-Dolphins game left to be played on Monday night.
The top five teams in the NFC are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. They’ve all clinched playoff berths already, leaving just two spots left for the 49ers, Eagles, Saints, Vikings and Falcons – and technically Washington.
The Rams made the biggest move, going from the fifth seed to the third spot. They took over first place in the NFC West, jumping the Cardinals with their win over Minnesota. They also edge out the Buccaneers based on head-to-head tiebreaker.
They’re just one game out of the No. 1 seed, but because the Packers already beat the Rams this season, the Rams will need to win their last two games and the Packers must lose their last two. The Cowboys hold the tiebreaker over the Rams and Buccaneers based on record in conference games.
Playoff matchups if the season ended today
1. Packers: first-round bye
2. Cowboys vs. 7. Eagles
3. Rams vs. 6. 49ers
4. Buccaneers vs. 5. Cardinals
The Rams moved up to the third seed, but they just can’t escape an NFC West matchup in the wild-card round. They would face the 49ers in the first round if the season ended today, but the Cardinals are also lurking as the fifth seed. It seems likely that the Rams will face one of the two in the wild-card round.
Outside of earning a first-round bye, the best-case scenario for the Rams would be facing the seventh seed, which goes to the Eagles right now. They’re certainly a team the Rams would be favored to beat.
Packers: vs. Vikings (7-8)
Cowboys: vs. Cardinals (10-5)
Rams: at Ravens (8-7)
Buccaneers: at Jets (4-11)
Cardinals: at Cowboys (11-4)
49ers: vs. Texans (4-11)
Eagles: at Washington (6-9)
It’s a mixed bag of opponents for the NFC’s top teams. The Cowboys, Rams and Cardinals all have tough matchups, while the other four teams currently holding playoff spots have it a bit easier.
The Rams’ matchup with Baltimore gets much easier if Lamar Jackson can’t play, but the Ravens still gave the Packers a run for their money with Tyler Huntley at quarterback in Week 15.
A win by the Cardinals will actually help the Rams, so long as they also win in Week 17. That would push Los Angeles to the second seed, breaking the tie with Dallas.