(CBSLA)- Despite Sunday’s disappointing 23-20 loss to the division rival San Francisco 49ers, the Rams are in good position entering the season’s home stretch. At 7-4, they’re firmly planted in the fifth spot in the NFC as the conference’s top Wild Card team. With five games left on the schedule, Sean McVay’s group seems to be a virtual lock for a playoff spot but the division could also be in play.
So, what are the most realistic scenarios for how things play out? Well, according to the FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) projection models, the Rams have a 91 percent chance of making the postseason. The two models are in the same range in terms of chances of winning the division as well with FiveThirtyEight at 27 percent and FPI at 31 percent.
The Rams trail Seattle by a game in the NFC West, but currently hold the tiebreaker thanks to their 23-16 win over the Seahawks in Week 10. The teams have another matchup Week 16 that could determine the division winner. But, the schedule does have plenty of pitfalls along the way.
Two games loom against the Arizona Cardinals who, at 6-5, are fighting for their playoff lives as well. There is also a Week 14 matchup with the New England Patriots against whom Jared Goff struggled mightily in his career. The Week 15 battle against the winless Jets should provide a nice respite before season-endings battles with the Seahawks and Cardinals.
Let’s start with the most efficient way for the Rams to assure themselves a playoff berth. Win the next two games, Sunday against the Cardinals and next Thursday against the Patriots and their playoff chances rise to greater than 99 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s model. Assuming the Seahawks win their upcoming games against the New York teams (Giants and Jets back-to-back weeks), that would put each team above the 99 percent threshold and it would be a matter of who wins the division, likely hinging on the Week 16 matchup.
If the Rams lose their next two games, their chances drop to 65 percent, but they’re still within striking distance. Though at that point they would likely need to win out in order to assure themselves a playoff spot.
The most likely scenario based on the current FiveThirtyEight game win probability models is that the Rams and Seahawks win their remaining games with Seattle clinching the division by taking the win in the Week 16 matchup. Still, winning out would put the Rams at 12-4 and right in the thick of things when it comes to the Super Bowl hunt in the NFC.
It all begins this Sunday with a road game in Arizona against the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. PST.