Around the NFC West: Rams still flickering

The St. Louis Rams can still earn a wild-card playoff berth this season despite a 36-22 home defeat to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16.

Rams fans frustrated by their team's confounding performance Sunday might not want to hear about it.

But I know it's true because the first pro-Rams scenario I punched into ESPN's Playoff Machine produced such a result.

Around the NFC West: Dec. 17, 2012

Among the game outcomes I selected to send St. Louis into the playoffs:

  • Week 16: Rams over Tampa Bay, New Orleans over Dallas, Philadelphia over Washington, Houston over Minnesota, Arizona over Chicago, Baltimore over the New York Giants.

  • Week 17: Detroit over Chicago, Green Bay over Minnesota, Philadelphia over the Giants, Rams over Seattle.

Changing any one of those outcomes knocked the Rams from contention. Anyone familiar with sports betting knows a 10-team parlay isn't going to pay off very frequently. But for those wondering how the Rams could still salvage the playoffs from Jeff Fisher's first season as head coach, now you know at least one manner featuring no additional tie scores.

As for the game itself Sunday, well, nothing about the Rams suggested they were worthy of playing additional games this season. They had problems across the board.

The Rams can still point to a potentially bright future built around young players, but it's getting tougher to make the case for Sam Bradford as the NFC West quarterback with the brightest future. That is looking like one of the more profound takeaways from this 2012 season. Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick are changing the dynamic in the division.

That will be a storyline more important than what happens over the final two weeks of the season.