The Rams’ potential playoff matchups for the first round are a varied group of extremely good teams that can all beat them. On the converse, the Rams can (and already have, in most cases) beat every last one of them. There is an old boxing saying that “style’s make fights” and it does not only pertain to boxing.
In the NFL, it is a week-to-week, matchup-based league. When you are a consistently above-average team, like the Rams, the games that you lose are usually going to be the ones with (theoretically) bad matchups. Case in point: 2020. This season the Rams have four losses. They lost a very close game to the Bills, possibly the only team that LA will lose to all year that isn’t considered a “bad-matchup” for the Rams. Their other three losses came to San Francisco (twice) and the Miami Dolphins. The last three losses are very similar in the fact that it was the offense that let the Rams down, not the defense.
Most pundits would argue that it is up to the head coach and coordinators to adjust their gameplan as the game progresses and as it is learning what the other team is doing. While all of that may be true, it is simply easier said than done. If a team has very good man-to-man corners, stops the outside zone with speedy linebackers, and generates a pass rush, the Rams are extremely vulnerable. This makes the Rams’ potential playoff matchups even more important for them than they would be for most teams.
This is not because head coach Sean McVay cannot adjust, but rather the fact that the Rams do not have the personnel (deep threat) to get teams to stop using the packages that Los Angeles struggles with. So, without delay, let’s dig into the Rams’ potential playoff matchups and determine which teams LA might have their way with and which teams they are likely to struggle with.
Likely Rams’ potential playoff matchups
The most likely opponent that LA is likely to face in the playoffs is a very familiar foe. We all know the history between these two, going at it twice a year, every year. This season, the Rams were able to come away victorious in the first matchup of the season, a 23-16 domination at SoFi Stadium that was not as close as the score suggested. The teams will play one more time, in week 16, which will give us a better feeling for how high on the list of Rams’ potential playoff matchups that Seattle should be. The Rams can face the Seahawks by either winning the division or by obtaining one of the three wild-card spots.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is another team that has a high probability of becoming the Rams’ potential playoff matchup. The Rams and Bucs’ have had two matchups over the past two years, with each team winning once. This year’s game was a hard-fought, three-point victory for the Rams. The prospects of a rematch have everyone excited, and when you throw in the fact that Bruce Arians knows Los Angeles so well from his time in Arizona and the connections between the Rams and Tom Brady, this game sounds all the more enticing. In order for the Rams to face the Buccaneers, they would most likely have to win the NFC West.
Of all of the Rams’ potential playoff matchups, Minnesota stands out because the Rams have not faced them in a few years. The last time they played was in 2018, with both teams having added new offensive and defensive coordinators since. Minnesota doesn’t seem to have the man-to-man corners or pass-rush that is necessary to beat the Rams, but a matchup between Jared Goff and perhaps his most equal comparison, Kirk Cousins would be must-see tv. In order for the Rams to face the Vikings, they would most surely need to win the division and also pass up the Packers or Saints to get the two seed.
After a quick detour, we are back yet again with the familiarity. Facing a team in your same division is already a tough task, but if the Rams face the Cardinals in the playoffs it would be even harder on both squads. This is because the teams face off in week 17, meaning it would be back-to-back games between them–and three matchups in five weeks when you include last week’s Rams victory. In order for the Rams to face the Cardinals, they need the same scenario that was mentioned in the Minnesota paragraph to happen and also must see Arizona pass the Vikings in the standings.
NFC EAST winner
If LA loses the division crown to the Seahawks, the most likely of all the Rams’ potential playoff matchups would be with the winner of the NFC East. Just like most of the others on this list, LA has faced each team in this division already this year…and beat them all. The Giants and Washington actually played the Rams tough this year and present challenges because of their young and improving defenses. In the end, though, this would probably be an easy win for LA. In order for this to happen, the Rams must be the number one wild-card team.
Long-shot Rams’ potential playoff matchups
Although it appears very unlikely, considering the Bears have lost six straight games, Chicago is still technically in the hunt to be one of the Rams’ potential playoff matchups. The Rams were actually the team that got the Bears started on this seemingly infinite losing streak. That win was very convincing for the Rams, especially on the defensive side of the ball and in the running game. The Rams would surely welcome this matchup in the first round of the playoffs, but they would also need some help. Chicago needs to pass up both Arizona and Minnesota, and the Rams must get to the number two seed in the conference.
Detroit is in the same boat as Chicago, with an identical record and an equally tiny chance at the playoffs. In order for the Lions to even enter the picture as one of the Rams’ potential playoff matchups, they need to win out and get a lot of help. In terms of how the Rams and Lions would look squaring off against each other, this is not one that would scare LA. The Lions’ best man-to-man corner is Jeff Okudah, and while the rookie has shown a lot of promise, would be exposed if asked to cover and tackle the Rams’ receivers in the open field.
San Fransisco 49ers
This is easily the scariest of all the Rams’ potential playoff matchups. San Fransisco has beaten the Rams four straight times, as the childhood team of Goff and McVay continues to act like their daddy. Surely, the competitiveness in LA’s locker room has them salivating at the prospects of a third chance to beat “the hated ones”, but Rams fans want no part of that. In order for San Fransisco to face Los Angeles, the 49ers need to win-out and also get all of the help that Detroit gets plus more.
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