Rams Are The Favorites To Earn The Fifth Seed In The NFC

There’s a huge difference between winning the division and earning a top-four seed in the playoffs and making it as a wild-card team. The four division winners are guaranteed to host at least one playoff game, and the top seed even gets a first-round bye.

The wild-card teams are forced to go on the road in the opening round and win three games – potentially all on the road – in order to reach the Super Bowl.

The Rams are currently slotted in as the fifth seed in the NFC and they have a steep uphill climb to winning the division. Sitting two games back of the Cardinals with only five games to play, it’ll be tough for the Rams to overcome that deficit and take the division lead from Arizona.

It’ll be almost impossible to do if they lose to the Cardinals on Monday night.

It’s not technically a must-win game, but if the Rams are to emerge as NFC West champions and host a postseason game, they almost have to beat Arizona this week.

If the Rams lose to the Cardinals, they’ll be three games behind with only four games left. To make matters worse, Arizona would have the head-to-head tiebreaker, so matching the Cardinals’ final record wouldn’t be enough.

Here’s a look at each team’s remaining schedule, just to give you a sense of how difficult it’ll be for the Rams to unseat Arizona if they lose on Monday.

Rams: at Cardinals, vs. Seahawks, at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers

Cardinals: vs. Rams, at Lions, vs. Colts, at Cowboys, vs. Seahawks

If the Rams lose on Monday, their path to the NFC West title would require them to win their final four games and the Cardinals to lose their last four – which is highly unlikely considering they face the Lions and Seahawks in that stretch. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Cardinals will have a 99% chance to win the West if they beat the Rams on Monday.

The Cardinals can actually clinch the division with wins over the Rams and Lions in the next two weeks, which makes this Week 14 tilt so critical for Los Angeles. A loss on Monday and the Rams can kiss goodbye any hopes of winning the West.

As frustrating as it may be, even if the Rams beat the Cardinals, Arizona will still be in complete control of the NFC West race. A win over Arizona would put the Rams just one game back for the division lead and even the season series at 1-1, making the next tiebreaker each team’s record in divisional games and then win percentage in common games.

The Rams would move to 2-2 in the division with a win and the Cardinals would drop to 4-1 in the West with a loss. Arizona’s only remaining division game comes in Week 18 against the Seahawks, which they’ll be expected to win. So it’s highly likely they’ll earn the divisional record tiebreaker over the Rams.

Even if the Rams win their final five games of the season and the Cardinals go 3-2 with losses to the Rams and Seahawks, Arizona would win the division at 13-4 based on its record in common games.

In other words, the Rams need to win out and the Cardinals have to lose at least three of their last five games for Los Angeles to have any chance at the division title because a tie at 13-4 will go to the Cardinals.

It’s why at this very moment, the Cardinals have a 97% chance to win the NFC West and even a loss to the Rams only drops it to 89%, per FiveThirtyEight.

The Rams are still in great shape when it comes to making the playoffs with a 90% chance, but it might be too late for them to unseat the Cardinals as the best in the West.

Source : https://theramswire.usatoday.com/2021/12/07/rams-cardinals-nfc-west-week-14-playoff-picture/

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