The Monday night clash between the Rams and the Lamar Jackson led Baltimore Ravens is a must-win. That’s not hyperbole its a FACT. The Rams’ margin of error is like the Snyder cut in that it doesn’t exist. If they want to make the playoffs they need to overcome not just Baltimore but a few other teams that control the Rams’ destiny. The Rams’ biggest playoff obstacles are individually a tough mountain to climb but together they make up a Murderhorn sized mountain that all the Powersauce bars and canned flapjacks might not overcome.
Rams’ Biggest Playoff Obstacles
It didn’t appear as though the Vikes would be any kind of hindrance to the Rams but here we are. Kirk Cousins was left for dead earlier in the season, Stefon Diggs appeared to want out, and many teams were kicking the tires on adding Mike Zimmer as their defensive coordinator. Cousins decided that he didn’t like that narrative so he decided to play like a quasi MVP candidate and with a healthy Dalvin Cook the Vikings offense can make big plays and control their lead.
Defensively they aren’t what they were two years ago but they’re good enough to shut down the Dallas Cowboys and prevent late-game collapses. The Rams can’t directly ward off the Vikes as they don’t play them. The good news is their schedule features games against Seattle and Green Bay so there’s a chance for the Rams to make up some much-needed ground.
Seattle Seahawks / San Francisco 49ers
Both teams represent the same obstacle. The NFC West is too damn good this year. Even the Cardinals are frisky enough to not be a divisional doormat. Seattle is riding a likely MVP season from Russell Wilson and has a bend don’t break defense. DANGERUSS is playing out of his mind to the tune of 23 TDs and only two picks. Wilson is also a freaking Houdini escaping any peril. Their offense is about to get more explosive with the addition of Josh Gordon (for now) and the emergence of rookie D.K. Metcalf. They are one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC and yet they are also susceptible to getting beat. The Rams were a missed Greg Zuerlein kick from doing so themselves. Fortunately, they get another crack in two weeks.
The Niners finally put it together. Kyle Shanahan finally has the type of offensive personnel in place to do what he wants. Matt Breida is running like Todd Gurley used to do but faster. Despite a tendency to almost give games away, Jimmy Garoppolo is looking like the prince that was promised. Defensively they are bend don’t break and have an explosively fast front seven. They represented the Rams’ previous rock bottom (now held by Pittsburgh) as they made it impossible for the Rams’ offense to do much of anything. The Rams’ get another crack at the Niners in the regular-season finale but considering the Niners schedule, it won’t be a meaningless game.
The Rams’ biggest playoff obstacles are in the division and if they can hold serve then they have a prayer. The Rams can’t win the division unless both teams free fall like Tesla stock post-CyberTruck so that’s not happening. Unfortunately, there’s still one team that’s the biggest of all the Rams’ playoff obstacles.
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Los Angeles Rams
That’s right. The Rams’ biggest playoff obstacle is themselves. They haven’t looked like a playoff team since week two and every fan KNOWS IT. Every Jared Goff pass is one pass closer to Zoloft.
It isn’t clear if Todd Gurley is hurt/washed/or playing possum, and the defense is asked to win the game every week.
Sean McVay’s coaching is some combination of stubborn/uncreative/Super Bowl PTSD, and they’ve been extremely undisciplined. The Rams went 13-3 a year ago because they took care of business against bad teams and didn’t frequently make costly mistakes. This year they blew games to inferior opponents in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Their division is better and unfortunately, they are not. They need to run the table to make the playoffs or else start lighting candles and practicing Santeria. It’s possible the Rams’ biggest playoff obstacles can be overcome externally, but internally it isn’t clear if they are up to the task.
Monday’s game against the Ravens is their biggest post-Jalen Ramsey trade test. If they pass it either ugly or with flying colors there is the hope they can slide down the Murderhorn and regain their pride.