For the Rams to win the division title on Sunday, they need two wins, one on the field and one on the plane.
They need to beat the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium to improve their record to 12-4. Then they have to hope the Arizona Cardinals lose to the Dallas Cowboys, giving the Rams a two-game lead in the NFC West with one left to play. Since the Cardinals match starts 3 hours and 25 minutes later, it will probably end after the Rams board their charter jet for the return trip.
Fasten the seat belts.
Or not. Coach Sean McVay said that if the Rams win and Arizona are on the verge of losing, they could delay the takeoff so they could see.
“We will probably still sit there and have a cold one if we are able to get the result we want,” said McVay, if the Rams got at least one wild card last week and are on the slippery slope to a third division title. in its five seasons.
It is also conceivable that the Rams could take off and fly when notified that they have reached the rare air of a division champion.
That would be the first for most, if not all.
“Not for football, but I’ve celebrated in the air before,” said Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with a laugh. “I think it’s going to be a moment we all remember.”
Linebacker Von Miller, who like Beckham joined the Rams in November, said the players are “mature” enough to look forward to finishing the NFC West title without falling into the trap of looking ahead.
“We’re very attentive and I think it just creates a sense of urgency to get the job done,” Miller said. “We’re super close to reaching some of the goals you set for yourself at the start of the season.”
As we enter this week’s matches, the Rams’ divisional lead, win-loss record and tiebreaker status make them the NFC’s No. 3 seed behind the Green Bay Packers (12-3) and Cowboys (11-4) and ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4). The Rams would play against the San Francisco 49ers at the SoFi Stadium in the wildcard round if the playoffs started now. It would not change if all the relevant matches on Sunday go according to the bet.
That would mean the Rams would go into next week’s final regular season game against the 49ers with something to play for, the outcome of their game and others around the conference affecting their matchup in the first round.
This represents a steep climb for the Rams.
Three weeks ago, they probably seemed to settle for a wild card. They were behind the Cardinals with two games with five left and would lose tiebreaker if the teams ended in a draw for first place.
But the Rams went 4-0 in December after going 0-3 in November. And their victory in Arizona started the Cardinals’ losing streak in three games.
“This league has definitely been a crazy one,” McVay said. “But we are not there yet. We have not done it yet.”
If there is any doubt that a team can reach far after a three-match losing streak, they can get a reminder from their opponent on Sunday.
In 2012, the Ravens lost their first three games in December, but returned to beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
John Harbaugh, the Ravens’ coach then and now, sees a Rams team recover fully after its crisis.
“They did it, of course, fantastically,” Harbaugh said this week in a conference call with Ram’s beat writers. “The last three games they hit on each cylinder.”
The Ravens (8-7) have stalled. A four-game losing streak has brought them behind the Cincinnati Bengals in their division and down to No. 8 in a race for seven AFC playoff spots. So they are perhaps more desperate for a win than the Rams are and they are 5-2 at home this season, with a high temperature of 64, 30% chance of rain and wind.
But the Ravens could be without quarterback Lamar Jackson, who missed the last two games, did not train on Thursday or Friday and is listed as questionable with a sprained ankle. Tyler Huntley is in line for his third NFL start.
The last time the Rams met Baltimore, Jackson passed for five touchdowns and rushed 95 yards, and the Ravens won 45-6 at the Colosseum in 2019.
“They beat us pretty badly in a primetime match. I remember that,” Ram’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “Personally, it’s in the back of my mind. That’s a little motivation. It’s a small payback game. ”
The Rams will not lack motivation. The defense and the special teams are trying to continue their improvements in the late season. Cooper Kupp, who leads NFL receivers in catches (132), yards (1,734) and touchdowns (14), continues his pursuit of single-season record catches (he needs 17 to tie Michael Thomas) and yards (he is 230 away) Calvin (Johnson).
Winning the division title with one week left is the main motivation.
Not that they’re on that plane yet.
“We’re aware of that,” Donald said of the chance to clinch. “The main focus right now is just to control what we can control, and that’s trying to find a way to beat the Baltimore Ravens.”
Brandon Powell, who returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown in last week’s victory over the Vikings, was lifted up from the training team again on Saturday. The same was defensive back Grant Haley. … Cam Akers, who is returning from an Achilles injury before the season, is listed as doubtful for Sunday, but Sean McVay said on Friday that the running back was more likely to wait another week for the game’s action. … As of Saturday, the Rams had no players from the active list on the COVID-19 reserve list.