The 0-3 Rams Will Make The Playoffs. No, Seriously.
Their schedule gets much easier after Week 9 and they're in a very bad division
By: Athlon Sports | 9/27/11, 10:23 AM EDT
With the first three weeks of the NFL season in the books, there are five teams — Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams — who have yet to win a game. According to research done by the NFL Network, teams that start the season 0-3 have a 2.8 percent chance of making the playoffs.
As far as the Colts and Chiefs go, injuries, mainly Peyton Manning for the Colts and Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for the Chiefs, have devastated their respective teams and the long-term prognosis for this season doesn't look too promising. The Dolphins and Vikings also appear to be long shots at best to turn things around and make the playoffs because of the teams in front of them. The Dolphins play in the AFC East with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, who are both trailing the undefeated Buffalo Bills right now, while the Vikings have two undefeated teams — Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers — in front of them.
So while Colts, Chiefs, Dolphins and Vikings fans may already be thinking about who they're going to draft next year (Andrew Luck?), Rams fans don't need to give up hope just yet. Because after all, they play in the NFC West.
Remember, this is the same NFC West that had a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team make the playoffs last year. The San Francisco 49ers (2-1) are the current division leaders thanks to a Week 1 win over the Seahawks, who in turn defeated the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to put both teams at 1-2.
The Rams meanwhile are playing one of the toughest early schedules in the league as they have lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens. What this really means is that the Rams have yet to play any games against divisional opponents, while the Seahawks have already played two and the 49ers and Cardinals one each.
Every division winner makes the playoffs, regardless of record, so if the Rams can take care of business in their own division, they will greatly enhance their postseason chances.
Take last year for example. The Seahawks won the NFC West thanks in large part to a 4-2 divisional record, which was capped of by beating the Rams in Week 17. Now the flip side is you do need to win non-divisional games too as the 49ers also finished with a 4-2 divisional record last year, but went 2-8 outside of the division.
So for the Rams, their season could very will hinge on this Sunday's home game against the Washington Redskins. The Redskins (2-1) are coming off a tough loss last night to the Dallas Cowboys, but have played well overall to start the season.
If the Rams have any hopes of ending their three-game losing streak, it needs to start with quarterback Sam Bradford. Last year's No. 1 overall pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year, Bradford has struggled out of the gate this season. He has just two touchdown passes and his quarterback rating of 73.3 through the first three games is 29th in the league.
The only quarterbacks ranked behind him are the Colts' Kerry Collins, the Chiefs' Matt Cassel and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Luke McCown. The first two play for teams who are also 0-3, and McCown is no longer the Jags' starting quarterback, having given way to rookie Blaine Gabbert.
The good news for the Rams' offense is that even though Steven Jackson has carried the ball a total of six times in the first three games, the team has been able to maintain a somewhat consistent running game. The Rams currently rank 11th in the league in rushing yards per game thanks to Cadillac Williams.
As much as the offense has struggled, the defense has fared even worse. The Rams are second-to-last in the NFL in total defense, giving up an average of 426 yards per game. Much of the damage has been on the ground, where the Rams are last in league in rush defense at 174 yards per game. The Rams also are next-to-last in points allowed (32 per game), while the offense is 29th in points scored (12 per game).
So it's certainly fair to say that the Rams have a long ways to go if they have any hopes of making the playoffs. But besides playing in what appears to be one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, the Rams also have history behind them.
The last team to start the season 0-3 and make the playoffs was the 1998 Bills. After going winless the first three games, the Bills won five in a row and finished the season 10-6. The Rams also have had recent success against Washington, beating the Redskins 30-16 in Week 3 last season.
Should the Rams come up short against the Redskins, history shows that even then all hope may not be lost. The 1992 San Diego Chargers started the season 0-4, only to win 11 of their last 12 and their wild card game before losing in the AFC Divisional round.
However, considering that the Rams go on bye next week and then get the defending Super Bowl champion Packers in Green Bay in Week 6, followed by a date with the Cowboys in Dallas and a home game against the New Orleans Saints, it probably would be best to focus on this Sunday's game and not worry about making history.
Then again, as disastrous as an 0-7 start to the season would be, the Rams would still have six divisional games and nine games total remaining. If they were to go, say 7-2 in those games, that would leave them with a 7-9 record. And just ask the Seahawks where that gets you.
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