ST. LOUIS -- With a 21-point win against the Chicago Bears already in their pocket, the St. Louis Rams found themselves in position to watch Monday night's game between the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers with the knowledge that they would be getting good news either way.
A Washington loss, of course, would mean the Rams would gain even more ground in the 2014 NFL draft, a draft in which they hold the Redskins' first-round pick. A San Francisco loss would mean the Rams were a game closer to their hated rivals in the NFC West and would have a chance to tie them in the division standings and the NFC playoff picture with a win by the bay this Sunday.
In a game that wasn't all that close, the 49ers romped past the Redskins to a 27-6 victory. The win keeps San Francisco firmly in the playoff mix at 7-4 and drops the Redskins to 3-8 and into a projected top-5 pick in next year's draft.
Yes, for one night anyway, the 49ers did something that actually could help the Rams in the long term. As it stands, Washington is tied with Tampa Bay for the fifth-worst record in the league but the Redskins would hold the "tiebreaker" against the Bucs which would slide them into the fifth spot. If the NFL draft were held today, the Rams would hold their own pick at No. 16 or 17 (they're currently tied with Miami with identical records and identical strength of schedule which would require a coin toss at the scouting combine in February) and the No. 5 pick from Washington.
Given the way the Rams are playing, it looks quite possible they will again be picking in the middle of the pack or potentially even in the late teens or early 20s, depending on how far they can run with their current momentum.
On the other end, Washington looks to be spiraling downward toward not only a top-5 pick but maybe something much greater. As teams like Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Jacksonville appear more competitive on a week-to-week basis, the Redskins are actually only a game removed from being tied for the worst record in the NFL. As it stands today, the Redskins also have the worst strength of schedule of the teams in the top 5, and if they had the same record they would hold the No. 1 overall pick right now.
Washington's remaining schedule allows for some potential wins, but given its struggles, it'd be unwise to chalk up any of those games as sure victories. Next week, the Redskins have a game against NFC East rival New York. They follow with a home game against Kansas City, a trip to Atlanta, home against Dallas and a season-ending trip to New York. Even a game against the Falcons is no guarantee for the current Washington team and a loss on the road there would really help the Rams since the Falcons are one of the teams currently carrying a worse record than Washington.
Obviously, there is still a lot of football to be played and a lot of evaluating to do. But here's one bet that's probably safe to make as we try to project where the Rams' additional draft pick might land: If Washington's pick is in the top three or five, general manager Les Snead will almost certainly do what he does best and begin working the phones to try to keep the extra draft capital rolling in.