ST. LOUIS – Asking Rams coach Jeff Fisher about his team’s playoff chances won’t get you very far. In fact, it might get you a dirty look.
Always one to focus on the present and not look too far into the future, the first-year Rams coach won’t yet let himself or his team think about the possibility of them making the playoffs just yet.
“No, we have the Vikings coming to town this week so that’s our focus,” Fisher says bluntly.
But at 6-6-1 following their third straight win Sunday in Buffalo, the Rams have put themselves back into the playoff talk. Sure the chances are not great with four teams ahead of them for the sixth and final spot in the NFC, but they have at least gotten back into the mix – something they couldn’t say at this point last year.
“It feels great man, but we’re not done yet,” said Rams defensive back Quintin Mikell. “We’re happy with the progress that we’re making. It’s a good time right now. Hopefully we can keep this thing going.
“Obviously that’s everybody’s goal to get to the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl, but right now if we lose a game, you can throw that all out. We’re just going at it one game at a time and hopefully we can win enough to get a shot at it.”
After tying for the worst record in the NFL last season at just 2-14, the Rams hired Fisher to bring a winning mentality and hopefully gradual improvement. But a five-game winless streak dropped them to 3-6-1 after a 27-13 loss at home to the New York Jets on Nov. 18.
Instead of folding up like they have in recent seasons, the Rams instead responded with three consecutive victories over the Cardinals, 49ers and Buffalo Bills to climb back to .500. They aren’t in a playoff spot just yet. But they are back in the conversation.
“We don’t really look at it in that sense because we’re at .500 but we don’t want to be a .500 team,” Mikell added. “We want to be a playoff team and we know we have to play much better than we have been to get to the playoffs and that’s what were focusing on.
“We’re all working together towards one goal and not to sound cliché but were just taking it a day at a time and hopefully we’ll get a chance.”
The math is fairly simple for the Rams if they want to somehow sneak into the playoffs. First, they must win their final three games – Sunday at home against Minnesota and on the road against Tampa Bay and Seattle – to put them at 9-6-1.
The Vikings are currently a game ahead of the Rams but would drop below them if the Rams can beat them on Sunday. The Rams would then need the Seattle Seahawks to lose one of their two games – either at Buffalo or at home vs. San Francisco – before beating them in the season finale. Certainly possible.
They also need the two other teams ahead of them, the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, to each lose one of their final three games. Washington could be without quarterback Robert Griffen III this week when they play at Cleveland, a game they could certainly lose. Dallas plays Pittsburgh and New Orleans before ending with the Redskins and could certainly lose one of those games also.
The Rams don’t control their own destiny just yet. But if they were to win their final three games, chances are they would be in a good spot to make the playoffs. And that’s all they can ask for at this point.
“I mean yeah, we’re in it right?” said offensive lineman Harvey Dahl. “Yeah. Win our games, that’s all we can do.
“Everybody knows what’s going on and knows if we win our games, we’ll put ourselves in position and give ourselves a chance. We’ve let some get away but I think we still have something to play for and that’s big for us.”
Had the Rams not let wins slip away against the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins earlier this season, they would be sitting comfortably in a playoff spot with three weeks left.
But they didn’t, and they find themselves on the outside looking in as the stretch run begins. At least they still have something to play for. Just don’t ask Fisher about what that might be yet.
“If we were 10-1 or something like that we’d be talking about the importance of winning out and the advantage of home field advantage,” Fisher said. “But right now none of that matters if we don’t win this game. We have to find a way, as do the Vikings, to win.”