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Bernie Bytes: Rams In The Playoff Hunt?

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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, CoolStandings.com. 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

  • #2
    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!
    sigpic :ram::helmet:

    Comment

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    • r8rh8rmike
      Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
      by r8rh8rmike
      Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB

      BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
      Monday, January 10, 2011 1:20 pm


      I hope everybody had a pleasant weekend.

      It was a terrific weekend for the NFL playoffs, with three of the four games going down to the wire and delivering plenty of drama.

      Let's begin by making a local connection with this:

      Five Things the Rams Could Have Learned From Watching the Playoffs:

      1. Do not hold back, do not go into a big game with a tentative mindset. To cite the famous quote from Herm Edwards: "You play to win the game." And if you saw the Seattle Seahawks hang 41 points in the upset of the New Orleans Saints, if you watched the Seahawks come out on Jan. 2 and stun-gun the Rams on the opening drive, then no elaboration is required.

      2. The Rams defense is close to being playoff-caliber, if it isn't already there. I'm not suggesting that the Rams are as good defensively as some of the teams we watched this past weekend, including Baltimore, the NY Jets or Green Bay. I won't bore you with a long statistical breakdown, but take a look at the bottom line: the Rams ranked 12th in the NFL in allowing the fewest points, 20.5 per game. Of the 12 teams that qualified for the postseason, nine rank ahead of the Rams in points allowed and the Rams were better in this area than three playoff teams (Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Seattle.) Given the dramatic improvement of their defense under HC Steve Spagnuolo and DC Ken Flajole from 2009 to 2010. The Rams are close, really close. For example: Chicago gave up 18 points per game this season, two fewer than the Rams, and the Bears were No. 4 in the league in scoring defense. Moreover, the Rams were No. 2 in the NFL this season in preventing third-down conversions. The Rams didn't face many top offenses or QBs, so this needs to be flitered a bit. But defensively, I think the Rams have made good progress in building a playoff defense.

      3. Be innovative to perk up that sluggish running game. If you've been reading me you'll know that I'm disappointed in the dull nature of the Rams' rushing attack in 2010. There is no excuse to get an average of only 3.8 yards per carry out of Steven Jackson. Not with the elite draft picks and free-agent purchases playing up front. There's no excuse for the Rams to shy away from running as soon as a team hits them with an eight-man front. Because of injuries to RB Ryan Grant and others, the Green Bay Packers labored to run the ball effectively this season. The Pack averaged only 3.8 yards per carry as a team. But Green Bay went into Philadelphia and won with the help of a 123-yard rushing performance from rookie James Starks. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry. As a team, GB finished with 138 yards rushing. And I don't think many expected that to happen. But did you see what the Packers came up with? They implemented an interesting backfield...
      -01-10-2011, 06:51 PM
    • MauiRam
      Bernie: Rams have big chance to show progress ..
      by MauiRam
      Bernie Miklasz Saturday, October 2, 2010 12:20 am


      The Seattle Seahawks will be at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, and this is only the Rams' most important home game since the 2006 season. It's the last time the franchise had a mathematical possibility of making the playoffs.

      Not that we're ready to put the 1-2 Rams in the playoff-contender category. Not at all. But for a forlorn franchise that spent the previous three seasons riding on a downbound train, this is a pretty big deal, to have a chance to be 2-2. It's been a while. The 2007 Rams got off to an 0-7 start., the 2008 team was stuck at 0-4 a month into the season, and the 2009 Rams lost their first seven games.

      Considering that the Rams' combined September-October record over the previous three seasons is 2-21, the opportunity to be 2-2 is an appealing objective. And it would represent tangible progress.

      We're not talking miracles here. This is about reversing a pattern of chronic losing. And reversing the horrible trend of losing games at home, and losing games in the NFC West. Since the start of the 2005 season the Rams are 4-27 in division games, and that includes a 1-15 mark at home. Unless the Rams can begin to beat up on the NFC West teams that have bullied them, their torment and frustration will continue.

      So it's time to make a stand. Yes, even with an injured Steven Jackson. The Seahawks are 3-14 in their last 17 road games, and two of the wins came in St. Louis. That means Seattle has lost 14 of its last 15 road games in places other than The Ed. This is an ideal time for the Rams to fight back and let the rest of the NFL know that things are finally changing in St. Louis.

      "I wasn't here last year," rookie quarterback Sam Bradford said, in a conference call with Seattle reporters. "So I couldn't tell you exactly what that culture was like before I got here. But in talking to some of the veterans, the guys that have been here, they seem to feel like we are moving in the right direction."

      The Rams should settle for nothing less than a win and a 2-2 record
      -10-01-2010, 11:13 PM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Bernie Bytes: Analyzing NFC West
      by r8rh8rmike
      Bernie Bytes: Analyzing NFC West

      BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
      Tuesday, November 30, 2010


      Can the Rams capture the tattered, soiled flag of the NFC West?

      Well, sure. Given the level of the competition, the Rams certainly are capable of pulling this off and going from 1-15 to a division title in a single year. Even if the Rams win a poor division, it wouldn't diminish the turnaround. I don't care that the NFC West is weak; a franchise that had a three-year record of 6-42 coming into this season would have every reason to be proud for winning this division or any division.

      Let's take a snapshot of each of the four teams in the NFC West. This is not intended to be comprehensive, just a quick look. Please feel free to add your own observations in the comments section. Thanks.

      ST. LOUIS (5-6)

      Schedule: At Arizona, at New Orleans, home vs. Kansas City, home vs. San Francisco and at Seattle.

      Strengths: Quarterback Sam Bradford has 11 TDs and 1 INT in his last six games and is playing at a Top 10 QB level right now ... Steven Jackson is averaging less than 4 yards per carry but his more unreasonable critics miss the point; defenses still respect him and that impacts strategy. The defense loads up to stop Jackson which opens up the passing game ... The defense is struggling overall but the pass rush is tied for 5th in the league in sacks ... the Rams make the fewest mistakes in the division, with only 13 turnovers in 11 games... they are the only team in the division with a positive number in the takeaway/giveaway ratio, at + 4...the team attitude and harmony is terrific. It's a highly motivated group.

      Concerns: Over the last three games, the Rams defense has allowed an average of 437 yards and 30 points. In the three games they've been burned for 6 TD passes (with no INTs) and a passer rating of 109.2 The Rams have given up a league-high 10 pass plays of 25+ yards over the last three games ... the coaching staff needs to shake this tendency on offense of going into a safe shell late in games to protect leads ... on offense the disappointing running game lacks consistency.

      Prognosis: Rams can do this if they find a way to patch the defense and get it back on track. And if the coaches put more trust in Bradford with the lead. And this team simply cannot lose games that it should win. It's happened twice already, at Tampa Bay and at San Francisco. The Rams can't afford to lose Sunday in Arizona, for example. The division could come down to a Jan. 2 showdown at Seattle.

      SEATTLE (5-6)

      Schedule: home vs. Carolina, at San Francisco, home vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay, home vs. St. Louis.

      Strengths: The Seattle special teams can make things happen. The Seahawks rank 4th in the league in punt-return average and are 9th in kickoff return average, with two TDs ... on a given day, Matt Hasselbeck...
      -11-30-2010, 05:42 PM
    • ZiaRam
      Tony Softli: Rams need All Three
      by ZiaRam
      The Rams have three games remaining on the 2010 NFL schedule. They have played lights out in several games and marginal in others. They have more wins this season than the last three seasons combined. The Rams earned the number one overall pick in last April’s draft, choosing franchise quarterback Sam Bradford, and a left offensive tackle in Roger Saffold. The defense, in its second season under the Steve Spagnuolo system, is playing aggressively well.
      The Rams find themselves in a dog fight in the NFC West. They are currently tied for first with the Seattle Seahawks. While holding the tie breaker over the Seahawks if the season ended today, the Rams end the 2010 season on the road with a trip out West to Seattle and Qwest Field January 2nd, which may be the deciding game for the divisional crown.
      While I respect the opinion of all my analyst peers around the country, I’m not buying the wolf tickets that are being sold in St Louis and throughout the country, that the Rams only need two wins to seal the division. I’ve heard the Rams are playing with house money. Are you kidding me? That’s not the mentality I came into this league with from the University of Washington and I have never looked at a schedule when working for a NFL franchise that we didn’t have a chance to win this one, or we will lose that one. Like Coach Herm Edwards says, “you play to WIN the game,” every game.
      The message from Rams Head Coach to the Rams players, coaching staff and the organization, should be, “We need to play our best football these next three weeks. We must bite, fight and scratch our way to three wins and gain momentum while staying healthy.”
      I guarantee Coach Spagnuolo isn’t selling the notion to his team, that ok we can lose this one and go beat these guys. A lot of the NFL game is physical toughness as well as mental toughness, and you can’t turn it on and off like a light switch. The Rams flew to New Orleans to deal them a loss. In their minds anything else was not acceptable. The team and staff were extremely disappointed in the loss and their performance, which made for a long flight home.
      Despite the loss to the Saints, the Rams remain tied for the lead in the NFC West with the Seahawks. The problem is with every loss by both teams, the San Francisco ***** are creeping back into the picture. With a big win Sunday, the ***** are 5-8 for the season and only one game back have the best defense in the division.
      The ***** have the following teams remaining on their schedule: San Diego, Arizona and St. Louis. Seattle is dealing with two of the NFC South powerhouse teams in Atlanta and Tampa Bay. St. Louis has Kansas City, San Francisco and Seattle. The game that is building as a major interest is the San Francisco vs. St. Louis Rams at the LOU the day after Christmas.
      The Rams must win all three of the remaining games, keep that mind set and good things will happen. The Rams will take...
      -12-13-2010, 06:27 PM
    • RamWraith
      It's a slate of tough dates for Rams
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      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Friday, Aug. 27 2004

      The Rams play the seventh-toughest schedule in the National Football League in
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      Seven of their 16 games are against 2003 playoff teams. Only Carolina, New
      Orleans and Tampa Bay (with eight apiece) face more.

      The Rams play both Super Bowl participants - New England and Carolina. Not to
      mention three-time NFC runner-up Philadelphia.

      They get Michael Vick in his 71,000-seat playpen - the Georgia Dome.

      They renew acquaintances with old rivals New Orleans and Tampa Bay and face a
      potential warm-weather game at Miami in late October, and potential
      cold-weather contests in late November in Buffalo and Green Bay.

      And let's not forget the division. There's the budding rivalry with the Seattle
      Seahawks, who some believe are the team to beat in the NFC West . . .
      traditional West Coast rival San Francisco . . . and of course, the team St.
      Louis loves to hate, Mr. Bidwill's Arizona Cardinals.

      Other than that, there's absolutely no challenge, intrigue, or excitement to
      the Rams' 2004 schedule. If not the most interesting and most daunting schedule
      since the move to St. Louis, it's close to it.

      Let's begin at the beginning. The Rams are 7-2 in home openers since the move
      from southern California, which doesn't bode well for the Big Red, who visit
      their old hometown Sept. 12.

      The Rams have swept all four meetings with the Cardinals since realignment put
      the teams in the same division in 2002. Under new coach Dennis Green, the Big
      Red at least had the makings of an exciting offense with underrated Marcel
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      But injuries to Boldin (knee) and Shipp (ankle) will sideline them far beyond
      opening day. If the Rams have any aspirations for another NFC West title - or
      even a wild-card playoff berth - they must sweep the Cardinals.

      In fact, the best recipe for postseason play would seem to be a 5-1 record in
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      The Rams could accomplish 5-1 in the division by sweeping Arizona and San
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      Seattle is another matter. The Seahawks are a year older, a year wiser and
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      -08-29-2004, 07:35 AM
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