ST. LOUIS (FootballStL) -- It is crunch time for teams hoping to make it into the playoffs with only four games remaining in the regular season.
The Falcons (11-1) are the only NFC team to punch their ticket it into the dance. The 49ers (8-3-1), Packers (8-4) and Bears (8-4) are poised to do the same, but the Giants (7-5) and Seahawks (7-5) have a lot of work left to solidify their spots.
So what are the chances that the Rams (5-6-1) make it into the playoffs?
Realistically, there is an outside chance that the Rams make it in. The team will need to finish no worse than 3-1 in their remaining games to have a glimmer of hope at the playoffs.
In addition to the Rams, four other teams stand between them and the final wild-card spot, currently being held by the Seahawks. Those teams each have a 6-6 record and include the Redskins, Cowboys, Buccaneers and Vikings.
The Rams will be able to gain ground in the race if it can beat the Vikings at home next week and the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay the following week. The Rams will close the regular season against the Seahawks in Seattle. A 3-0 record to end the season would be a boost for the Rams and its playoff hopes.
So let’s take a look at the Giants, currently the division leader with the worst record, and the two wild-card teams, the Bears and Seahawks.
The Giants (7-5) will have to play the surging Saints (5-7), Falcons (11-1), Ravens (9-3) and Eagles (3-9).
There is a solid chance that the defending Super Bowl champs may finish the season with one win in its final four games. A 1-3 record in its final games will likely knock the Giants out of the playoff hunt. The team will play at home against the Saints and Eagles, the two weaker teams, but will have to go on the road for the games against the Falcons and Ravens.
The top wild-card team is the Bears (8-4). They will play at the Vikings (6-6) this week and then against the Packers (8-4) and Cardinals (4-8) at home before facing the Lions (4-8) on the road in the season finale.
A Bears win over the Vikings will be much-needed for the Rams’ playoff hopes as it currently trails the Vikings in the hunt for the playoffs. It is likely that the Bears will finish the season off with at least three wins. It is also almost guaranteed at this point that the NFC North will have two playoff teams this season.
The weaker of the two current wild-card teams is the Seahawks (7-5). They will play the Cardinals (4-8) at home, against the Bills (5-7) at Buffalo, the 49ers (8-3-1) at home and finish the season at home against the Rams (5-6-1).
The good news for the Rams is that the Seahawks have not won a game against a division opponent. The bad news for the Seahawks is that it plays three of its final four games against division opponents. It is likely that the Seahawks will finish with only one or two wins in its final four games.
Then there are the four teams ahead of the Rams, but still sit outside the wild-card.
The Redskins (6-6) will play the Ravens (9-3) at home this week and then on the road against the Browns (4-8) and Eagles (3-9). The team will finish at home against the Cowboys (5-6). The Redskins should win at least two of its final four games -- but anything can happen on any Sunday.
The Cowboys (6-6) will have a tougher time making the playoffs as it travels to play the Bengals (7-5) this week. The team will then play at home against the Steelers (7-5) and Saints (5-7) before wrapping up the season at the Redskins. The Cowboys are one of the more unpredictable teams, but it wouldn’t come as a shock if they win just one of these games.
The Buccaneers (6-6) will also find it to be a difficult time in their final four games. The Bucs should beat the Eagles at home this week, but will then face the Saints on the road. The team will return home to face the Rams and finish the season on the road at the Falcons. The team will likely get at least one or two wins in the final stretch. If it can find a way to beat the Saints and Rams then the team will greatly strengthen its chances at the playoffs.
The Vikings (6-6) will have the toughest chance of making the playoffs. It will face the Bears this week and then return home against the Rams. The Vikings will then travel to play the Texans (11-1) and will wrap the season at home against the Packers (8-4). The team gets no breaks against its final opponents. The Vikings will likely win only one of its final games unless Adrian Peterson carries them to victories each week.
Then there is the surprising Rams (5-7-1). The Rams will have to play three of its final four games on the road. This week the team will play the Bills in Buffalo. The team will return for its final home game against the Vikings (6-6) and then play on the road at the Buccaneers and Seahawks. It would be nice to see the Rams win all four games and make the playoffs, but the team will likely win no more than three of its final four games.
So do the Rams make the playoffs? Short answer: To be determined. If I were to guess, I would say it is unlikely for the sheer fact that its a young team that does not have the experience to handle a playoff chase. Let’s hope I am wrong.