The Rams (12-4) have made the NFC playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons under coach Sean McVay. But Los Angeles still has work to do in Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season to win its first NFC West title in three years.
Here’s breaking down where the Rams stand going into Sunday’s home game vs. the 49ers and how high they can finish knowing their seeding scenarios:
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How can the Rams win the NFC West?
The Rams, the current No. 2 seed in the NFC between the locked-in No. 1 Packers and the No. 3 Buccaneers, can clinch the division crown in one of two ways.
1. Rams win or tie in Week 18
The Rams have a full-game lead on the second-place Cardinals (11-5), who also have clinched an NFC playoff berth. A win or a tie maintains that lead by a full or half game. The Rams have lost five consecutive games to the 49ers, however, including 31-10 at San Francisco in Week 10. The 49ers (9-7) won’t make it easy on Sunday afternoon, as they are playing to just to earn a wild-card berth behind the Rams and Cardinals.
2. Cardinals lose in Week 18
Should the Rams fall to the 49ers a second time, they also need the Cardinals to lose their NFC West home game to the Seahawks. Arizona is a slightly bigger favorite in that game than Los Angeles is against San Francisco.
How high can the Rams be seeded?
No. 1 belongs to the Packers. But with a win, the Rams would be locked into No. 2 no matter what the Buccaneers (12-4) do against the Panthers. The Rams hold the head-to-head tiebreaker from beating the Buccaneers in Week 3.
But say the Rams lose but still win the division because the Cardinals also lose. At 12-5, they would drop to No. 3 should the Buccaneers win and No. 4 should the Cowboys also beat the Eagles on Saturday. The Buccaneers will be a game up on the Rams in that case. The Cowboys would improve to 12-5 to match the Rams and would hold a decided edge in conference record with a 10-3 mark in NFC play.
Should the Rams lose the division with a loss and a Cardinals win, they cannot finish any lower than No. 5 at 12-5, as the best the No. 6 49ers or No. 7 Eagles can finish is two games behind at 10-7.