ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 2: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams takes the field prior to playing against the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome on October 2, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Redskins beat the Rams 17-10. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Yes, we've watched the St. Louis Rams play football this season. But the Cardinals have inspired a new wave of hope at SB Nation. Here's how the Rams make the playoffs.
Okay. Maybe it's the Cardinals' magical October run. Maybe it's the angeldust I found in a port-o-potty at Oktoberfest. But even after a dreadful 0-4 start, the St. Louis Rams aren't totally eliminated from the playoff hunt this season.
I know—the Rams travel to Green Bay and Dallas before hosting the New Orleans Saints. And while I grant you that I have just about zero faith that a miracle comeback is in the DNA of this particular Rams team, it's hard to count out any team that's yet to play a division game. Especially when that division is the worst in all of pro sports.
Also, the angeldust helps.
So what needs to happen? Quite a bit. But it's not impossible, so bear with me.
First, a surprise win in the next three weeks. Gut reaction is to pinpoint that Dallas game as one you can sneak away with, but I'm leaning toward that Saints game as a more viable option. Green Bay? If you thought that was an option, even for more than a millisecond, you haven't seen Green Bay play this year. In which case, I recommend doing so. Quite enjoyable.
That leaves the Rams at 1-6 with eight division games still on the slate.
With the 49ers' unexpected 4-1 start, the Rams simply have to beat them twice to have a shot here. They'll most likely be 3-4 games in arrears of them the first time they meet, so a loss head-to-head is the end of the season.
The Rams also need to take three of four from Arizona and Seattle. Preferably all four, though that's a tall order.
Now we're up to 6-7 with three wild cards.
Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Assuming the Steelers are back to Steeler form by late in the season, that makes the Bengal and Browns must-win games. Collect both and it's 8-8. A win better than in 2011 and a hell of an accomplishment for a team that's 0-4 at the quarter pole.
Ah, but the 49ers also need to be complicit in this run, a la the Atlanta Braves. Not likely, but also not impossible. The Niners have Baltimore, Detroit, New York (Giants) and Washington still on the docket. Two losses out of those four takes them to 6-3, and if we assume the two losses to the Rams, that's 6-5.
At that point it's going to come down to whether the Cardinals or Seahawks can beat the 49ers in one of the three games they have head-to-head. That would leave them at 8-8, and losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Rams for the NFC West crown.
Yes, we saw the Niners flog the Buccaneers on Sunday. Yes, we saw the Rams' first 4 games. But the Baseball Cardinals have inspired a new wave of optimism at SB Nation St. Louis.
At least until Sunday.