By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Nov. 14 2005

This was not how it was supposed to be. All around the visitor's locker room in
Seattle, the Rams quietly sorted through their belongings and began stuffing
them and their regrets into garment bags and shoulder sacks for the long ride
home. The game was over, the race for the NFC West was reduced to a pipe dream,
and the Rams were suddenly staring at a second-half itinerary full of
uncertainty.

"I'm mad right now, but I can tell you one thing for sure, this season is far
from over," Tyoka Jackson said. "We blew a chance to get back in this playoff
hunt, but we got some help because several teams lost games, too. We know we're
not out of it. I may not know very much, but I do know that."

The Rams are 4-5 with seven games to play, and all we have to go with is the
evidence in front of us. Right now, the Rams look like an 8-8 team, tempting
you with promise one game (beating Jacksonville), only to frustrate you with
maddening failures (Seattle) the next. This loss to Seattle - just like the
opening-season loss to the woeful ***** - probably are going to be the ones
that will keep them out of the playoffs.

Yet even with those wasted opportunities, the Rams still have a chance to alter
our beliefs that they've already defined themselves as a frustrating
middle-of-the-road pretenders. The opportunity is still there for a little old
championship magic to resurface and produce an improbable late-season surge to
the postseason.

"I don't look at the standings, to be perfectly honest," Marc Bulger said after
the loss Sunday. "But our goal is still to win this division. It can still
happen. One thing I've learned is that crazy things can happen. Remember last
year when we were 6-8 and everyone thought we were dead? Well we ended up in
the playoffs, didn't we? So maybe history can repeat itself."

Maybe it can, but the Rams are running short on time. They have put themselves
in the demanding position of probably having to win six out of their last seven
games to even get a crack at one of those wild-card slots. The road to revival
begins Sunday at home against the Arizona Cardinals and The Man Whose Name Must
Never Be Spoken (my little Harry Potter homage to quarterback who used to play
here; I made a promise after the last Cardinal game that I would let this QB
rivalry thing go, so I will not stir the pot anymore on the MVP who used to
play here; I will not dredge up his name as a cheap trick to sell papers, stir
up controversy or re-open unhealed wounds ... well, at least not until Friday).

The simple math says it's possible for the Rams to get back into the NFC
wild-card race, because the teams in front of them will start knocking each
other off. For example, the 6-3 Atlanta Falcons play five games against NFC
teams with winning records, as do the 7-2 Carolina Panthers and 6-3 New York
Giants. Tampa Bay (6-3) and Washington (5-4) will play four winning teams,
while Dallas will face six winning teams in the final seven weeks.


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Rams Remaining Games: Path to the postseason?

The Rams may need to win six of their final seven games to secure a playoff
berth:

Sunday - Arizona (2-7)
Kurt Warner returns to St. Louis, having thrown for 693 yards in past two games.

Nov. 27 - at Houston (1-8)
Offensively impaired Texans haven't topped 20 points in a game this year.

Dec. 4 - Washington (5-4)
Joe Gibbs' first contest in St. Louis since Dec. 6, 1987, against Big Red.

Dec. 11 - at Minnesota (4-5)
Vikings are 3-1 at home and always tough to beat in noisy Metrodome.

Dec. 18 - Philadelphia (4-4)*
Minus T.O., Eagles may need this one to keep playoff hopes afloat.

Dec. 24 - San Francisco (2-7)
***** are "battling" for second straight No. 1 overall draft pick.

Jan. 1 - at Dallas (5-3)*
Will Rams celebrate a happy New Year in Texas Stadium?