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Thread: They'll need a win and some luck
They'll need a win and some luck
BY STEVE KORTE
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) has been selected as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
ST. LOUIS - Two weeks ago, the St. Louis Rams were 5-8 and the playoffs looked like a pipe dream.
Now they're 7-8, and it's not such a far-fetched concept.
The Rams can make the playoffs with an 8-8 record for the second time in three seasons if they beat the Minnesota Vikings in their regular-season finale, and the New York Giants, the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons all lose their regular-season finales.
The Rams are two-point favorites against the Vikings (5-11) at noon Sunday at the Metrodome.
"If we win the game, we need some help to get in," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "That's the position we are in. If we don't win the game, it doesn't matter. That's got to be our approach, and then maybe some luck falls our way, and who knows."
Linehan said he's assigned a couple of his quality control assistants the task of scouting the Rams' two potential playoff opponents -- the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
The Rams can be no higher than the No. 6 seed among the six NFC playoff teams. They'd play the No. 3 seed, which is guaranteed to be the winner of the NFC East, in a Wild Card game on the weekend of Jan. 6-7.
"Our quality control coaches will work on it as if we've made the playoffs," Linehan said. "We'll do some preliminary work just like we're getting ready for another game. It won't be wasted time. We have a good chance of seeing these people again some time. You have to do it, or you'll be behind going into the playoffs."
All three teams involved in the Rams' playoff scenario are on the road.
The Panthers (7-8) play at the New Orleans Saints (10-5) at noon Sunday, while the Falcons (7-8) play at the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) in a game that has been moved from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Because the Giants (7-8) play at the Washington Redskins (5-10) on Saturday night in a game televised on the NFL Network, the Rams could be eliminated from the playoffs before their bed check at the team hotel in Minneapolis.
The Giants are 2 1/2 -point favorites against the Redskins.
Linehan said he wasn't worried about how his team would respond against the Vikings if they've already been knocked out of the playoffs.
"We are working on a lot of things, and one those is being 8-8," Linehan said. 'We know we are going to need some help, and if that doesn't happen, we are still playing for a lot of things. One of them is we wanted to improve this year based on where we started the year. There has been some trial and tribulations to get there, but I think they've done it the right way. We managed to get through certainly a tough stretch and got ourselves in a position to talk about the playoffs. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. Our goals will put out a great effort regardless."
Linehan said he wasn't going to check to see whether the team hotel carried the NFL network.
"I know we'll have ESPN, so we'll at least know," Linehan said. "Our guys know there is no guarantee of us getting in if we win. It's very nice to still be playing for the playoffs at this time of the season, especially after being 5-8 three weeks ago. It's something our guys have worked hard to get to."
After back-to-back losses to the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears, the Rams appeared to be out of the playoff hunt.
Linehan said the Rams got themselves back in contention by maintaining a one-game-at-a-time approach.
"We focused mainly on taking care of the next game because we knew we were close to being out of it," Linehan said. "I guess it's not beyond the realm of a 7-9 team making it, but I've never heard of one. If we're going to get in, we're going to have to end up with eight wins."
The Rams earned a trip to the playoffs in 2004 by winning their last two games, including a 33-29 overtime decision over the New York Jets in their regular-season finale.
"Until somebody says you're eliminated, you're not," Linehan said. "We had a very good example. This particular team made the playoffs in '04, and they were 6-8. Nothing is impossible."