A month ago, the Rams seemed to be coasting toward the top seed in the NFC, after securing a 54-51 win over the Chiefs in one of the best regular-season games of all time. Since then, the Rams have won two and lost two, and they now are only one loss away from putting themselves in a very difficult position for the playoffs.
While the Rams have won the NFC West and will play at least one postseason game at home, their Week 17 finale against the 49ers carries with it very high stakes. If the Rams beat the 49ers, the Rams will secure the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye that goes along with it. If the Rams lose to the 49ers, and if the Bears beat the Vikings, the Rans will fall to the No. 3 seed.
And here’s what that will mean, assuming the Eagles beat Washington: The Rams will face the Eagles in the wild-card round. If the Rams win, they’ll return to Soldier Field for the divisional round.
The Rams lost both to the Eagles at home and the Bears on the road in consecutive weeks earlier this month. Obviously, then, the Rams won’t want that path to a possible rematch with a team that beat the Rams in New Orleans.
Ruminate on that one for a second. The Rams have lost only three games all year, to the Saints, Bears, and Eagles. Lose to the 49ers on Sunday, and the Rams could be facing all three teams again, on the very fields where the three prior L.A. losses occurred.
So, yes, the Rams have every reason to empty the tank in order to beat the 49ers. The 49ers, in turn, will have every reason to try to take out their division rivals.