Rams playoff picture: Los Angeles’ updated NFC wild-card chances to make 2023 NFL playoffs

The Rams went into their Week 10 bye week with the season already appearing to be over. Los Angeles sat at 3-6 and had lost three straight contests.

It’s been a different Rams team since the time off. Los Angeles went 4-1 between Weeks 11 and 15, posting impressive wins over teams like the Seahawks and Browns, with the lone loss coming in overtime to the Ravens on the road.

But it’s not enough to just keep winning. Heading into a Week 16 “Thursday Night Football” matchup with the Saints, another 7-7 NFC team, the Rams have a chance to keep their own momentum going while putting down another contender in the NFC.

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The race for the division is already over. The NFC West crown has already been claimed by the 49ers. But the Rams are still very much in a wide-open NFC wild-card picture.

How does Los Angeles look heading into Thursday’s game? Here’s what you need to know.

Rams playoff picture

The Rams head into the game against the Saints holding on to the seventh spot in the NFC playoff picture. The winner will vault up to sixth, at least for the time being, over the Vikings.

Seed Team Record
1 49ers 11-3
2 Cowboys 10-4
3 Lions 10-4
4 Buccaneers 7-7
5 Eagles 10-4
6 Vikings 7-7
7 Rams 7-7
8 Seahawks 7-7
9 Saints 7-7

First things first, that top NFC wild card is going to go to the team that comes up short in the NFC East race, barring anything drastically changing between now and then. No matter what, both the Eagles and Cowboys have clinched playoff spots, ensuring there are only two wild card positions left.

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There are a few tiebreakers that work well for the Rams if they end the year tied with another team. The first is the divisional record. Los Angeles enters Week 16 with a 4-1 record in NFC West play, with only a season finale game against the 49ers left. That includes sweeping the season series against the Seahawks, which could prove pivotal if the teams are tied at the end of the year.

Then there’s the conference record. Los Angeles has a 5-4 record against NFC teams. If the Rams beat the Saints, they will improve to 6-4, which would be behind only the Vikings (6-3) among wild-card contenders. 

The biggest concern for Los Angeles should be Green Bay. The Packers beat the Rams head-to-head in Week 9, and thus would have the edge in a tiebreaking scenario.

Rams remaining schedule

The Rams will play their final game at SoFi Stadium on Thursday when they host the Saints. Barring a tumultuous postseason, it’s unlikely Los Angeles would play at home at any point even if it makes the playoffs unless it faced the seventh seed in the NFC Championship.

But the last two road games could both be winnable. Los Angeles ends the season traveling to East Rutherford, New Jersey, to face the Giants, then heads to Santa Clara, California, to play the 49ers.

Week Opponent Record Rams win probability
16 vs. Saints 7-7 55.5%
17 at Giants 5-9 64.5%
18 at 49ers 11-3 13.7%

Los Angeles is favored in its next two games, but is a huge underdog against the 49ers. So why could the Rams still have a winnable game against San Francisco that week?

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Teams have tended to rest starters in the final week of the season if their playoff spot is locked up. The 49ers have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles and Cowboys for the No. 1 seed should they all end in a tie, and at present, San Francisco is a game up on both. If San Francisco has the No. 1 seed locked up before Week 18, it’s possible a few starters get an additional week of rest.

Rams playoff chances

Per Sporting News’ projection model, the Rams have a 39.8 percent chance to make the playoffs before facing the Saints.

Here’s a look at the wild-card race, not including the Cowboys or Eagles, who have both clinched a playoff spot, or the division-leading Lions and NFC West champion 49ers.

Team xW-L Div% WC% Playoff%
Buccaneers 9-8 58.3% 15.6% 74.0%
Seahawks 9-8 0.0% 55.2% 55.2%
Saints 9-8 36.4% 16.4% 52.8%
Vikings 8-9 4.9% 42.7% 47.6%
Rams 8-9 0.0% 39.8% 39.8%
Packers 8-9 0.0% 14.1% 14.1%
Falcons 7-10 5.3% 8.1% 13.3%
Bears 7-10 0.0% 2.8% 2.8%

The Rams currently sit fifth in playoff percent among the remaining playoff teams vying for one of those last two wild-card spots. But there’s a bit of an asterisk there: One of the teams in the mix will win the NFC South.

That division has three teams — the Buccaneers, Saints and Falcons — who are all in the wild-card mix and NFC South mix. Atlanta’s odds plummeted after losing to the Panthers and the Buccaneers now have a commanding edge in the division lead over the Saints. 

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Part of the reason the model has more confidence in the Seahawks than Los Angeles is because of the remaining schedule. Seattle ends the year favorited to beat the Titans, Steelers and Cardinals. Los Angeles is in a near-coin flip game with the Saints and is a heavy underdog against the 49ers.

Minnesota has a challenging schedule the rest of the year, facing the Lions, Packers and Lions again. But the first of those two games will be at home, helping the Vikings on the schedule.

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