As noted on Friday, it’s believed that the Rams are choosing to rest starters because they prefer to land as the No. 4 seed, not the No. 3 seed, on the NFC playoff tree. While it may be too late to un-implement their plan, there’s still a very good reason to try to beat the 49ers on Sunday.
By losing, the Rams could be blowing a chance to host the NFC title game.
That possibility was mentioned in Friday’s story on the topic, but Friday’s story failed to mention one key factor: A similar scenario played out in 2006.
The Colts were the No. 3 seed, and the Patriots were the No. 4 seed. The Colts, who had clinched the division, needed to win in Week 17 in order to avoid sliding to No. 4. But the Colts saw what was looming: A win in the wild-card round at home, a road win in the divisional round, and a possible matchup in the AFC title game with a Patriots team that was good enough to do the same thing.
By staying at No. 3 with a Week 17 win over the Dolphins, the Colts ensured that the showdown with the Patriots would happen in Indianapolis, where it would be much easier to win in late January than in New England.
And that’s exactly what happened: The Colts beat the Chiefs then the Ravens, and the Patriots beat the Jets then the Chargers. The Colts then beat the Patriots to get to the Super Bowl.
While the Rams aren’t faced with playing the NFC title game in the elements, their apparent preference for a matchup with the Panthers over the Falcons/Seahawks and a then road trip to Philly instead of Minnesota opens the door for the possibility of having to play the Saints in their own building for a berth in Super Bowl 52, if the Saints win at home next weekend and then at Minnesota. Which will make it harder for the Rams to eventually get to Minnesota for the last game of the year than if they don’t host the NFC Championship.