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    Bernie Bytes: Rams In The Playoff Hunt?

    Bernie Bytes: Rams in the playoff hunt?

    9 hours ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist

    After having won two in a row to improve to 5-6-1, the Rams are lurking as a longshot contender in the NFC playoff race.

    That we’re even having this discussion is pretty amazing given (A) the team’s 15-65 record from 2007 through 2011 and (B) this season’s 0-1-4 winless streak that seemingly reduced the Rams to non-factor status.

    Realistically, the Rams are up against it. In some ways it is premature to discuss their playoff possibilities. But it’s no fun to ignore it, so just for kicks let’s take a look:

    • The remaining schedule gives the Rams an opportunity to make a move. Here’s why: three of their four games are against NFC teams that are scrambling to make it into the postseason as a wild card. After playing at Buffalo on Sunday, the Rams play Minnesota at home, go to Tampa Bay, then conclude the regular season at Seattle. The Rams have a chance to strengthen their position and weaken other contenders by winning the head-to-head games.

    • That said, the Rams have won only one game on the road this season, and that came against an Arizona team that has no quarterback, and very little offense. And three of the Rams’ final four games are on the road. They’ll have to potentially deal with the wind at Buffalo, the heat at Tampa Bay, and blustery conditions at Seattle. Buffalo is 3-2 at home this season; Tampa Bay is 3-3; Seattle is 5-0.

    • Few visiting teams win at Seattle, which has outscored opponents 123-69 in the five home wins this season. Tampa Bay defeated three losing teams at home (Carolina, Kansas City, San Diego) and lost to Washington, New Orleans and Atlanta. But at least Tampa Bay is a winnable game.

    • For now, let’s just concentrate on the next game at hand. The Bills have won their last two home games, beating Miami and Jacksonville. But the Bills were also blown out 52-28 at home by New England, and they found a way to lose a home game to Tennessee (35-34). The early weather forecast for Sunday in Buffalo? A high temperature of 39 degrees with a potential for rain (40 percent) and/or snow showers.

    • Let’s peek at the NFC wild card standings … Chicago has a grip on the top spot at 8-4. The Green Bay Packers are 8-4 but hold the tiebreaker over the Bears right now, so technically the Packers are in first place in the NFC North. But this one isn’t settled. Chicago and Green Bay will meet again at Soldier Field in Week 15. Both teams have been pounded by injuries, so it’s hard to predict what will happen the rest of the way.

    • As for the second NFC wild card pass: Seattle is 7-5, followed by Minnesota (6-6), Tampa Bay (6-6), Dallas (6-6), Washington (5-6 going into tonight’s game vs. the NYG), St. Louis (5-6-1) and New Orleans 5-7.

    • No, I didn’t look at all of the contenders’ remaining schedules. It’s too soon for that. If the Rams don’t take care of their own business by winning games, then it really doesn’t matter.

    • The Rams’ win over San Francisco was important, obviously. But the impact of the victory was reduced by Seattle’s overtime win at Chicago. A loss would have dropped the Seahawks to 6-6. This week Seattle may lose starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner to four-game suspensions for their violation of the NFL’s PED policy. If the suspensions are upheld, the Seahawks won’t have their outstanding CB tandem for the remaining games.

    • Seattle is in an interesting spot. In the NFC West, the *****’ lead over the Seahawks is only 1½ games. The remaining schedule seems to benefit Seattle more than San Francisco, because the Seahawks play three of their final four at home (Arizona, San Fran, and St. Louis). The ***** have to play at New England and Seattle.

    Finally, here’s the rundown of playoff odds pulled from the fun web site, I’ll list each NFC wild card contender, followed by their percentage-based likelihood of making the playoffs:

    Chicago, 91.6 percent

    Seattle, 81.2 percent

    Washington, 20.4 percent (pending tonight’s outcome.)

    Dallas, 16.4 percent

    Tampa Bay, 8.3 percent

    Minnesota, 7.3 percent

    St. Louis, 3.0 percent

    New Orleans, 2.0 percent

    The Rams need to keep it simple.

    Win games. And that’s still a challenge. The Rams must build on their current two-game win streak. If they can’t, the playoff chatter will end in a hurry.

    “I think the focus of this team has been one game at a time from the beginning of the year,” QB Sam Bradford said. “Regardless of whether we’ve won or lost the week before our focus has gone on to the next week and that’s exactly what we’re going to continue to do. Our focus now is going to Buffalo and getting another win.”

    I’m going to have much more later — lots of “Extra Points” — if you’d like to check back.

    Thanks for reading.

    — Bernie

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    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie Bytes: Rams In The Playoff Hunt?

    The upcoming game at Buffalo is going to be a tough one. We need this win BAD!

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