First-place Rams have second-toughest remaining schedule

Rams too inexperienced to threaten Eagles? (1:27)

Max Kellerman breaks down the Rams' assets that pose a real challenge to the Eagles in the NFC. (1:27)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Jared Goff pleaded ignorance when asked about the daunting stretch of games his Los Angeles Rams are facing.

"We've got Minnesota coming up next week, right?" Goff said after Sunday's 33-7 win against the Houston Texans. "I don't know who we've got after that."

Goff was told about some of the opponents that follow -- New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles -- and looked puzzled.

"Do we?"

The second-year quarterback was only kidding, but he also was trying to make a point: The Rams aren't looking beyond their upcoming game against the Minnesota Vikings. They've spent all season clinging to a one-week-at-a-time mentality, and they aren't about to stop now. Not at 7-2.

Whatever they're doing is working.

"To continue to even be in that company, you have to take it one game at a time," first-year head coach Sean McVay said. "The way that our guys have approached every single week -- with that focus, that concentration -- I've been very pleased with them. Being process-driven is the right way to go about it."

But make no mistake: The Rams' remaining schedule is, indeed, grueling.

The Rams lead the NFL with a plus-134 point differential, but they'll play four of the six teams that follow them in that stat. The Rams' next two games will come against surging teams that are 7-2 -- on the road against the Vikings, then at home against the Saints. Two weeks after that, they host an 8-1 Eagles team that has outscored opponents by a combined 104 points. Then it's on the road against a couple of 6-3 teams -- the division-rival Seahawks, then the Titans on Christmas Eve.

The Rams' remaining opponents have a combined .609 winning percentage, giving them the NFL's second-hardest schedule for these last seven weeks. The Falcons ranked first in strength of schedule after Sunday's action (opponent winning percentage of .619). The Seahawks were seventh (.563), the Vikings were 11th (.540), the Saints were 14th (.531) and the Eagles were 20th (.492).

"It's a good challenge for us to see where we are as a team," Rams running back Todd Gurley said. "We want to be in the playoffs, and right now if we keep doing what we're doing, we will. And these teams are going to be in the playoffs as well."

It's deep enough into the season for the playoffs to look like a mathematical possibility for the Rams. They need to win only three of their remaining seven games to reach 10 wins, and only four 10-win teams have failed to make the playoffs over the past six seasons. They need to win four of seven to reach 11 wins, and between 1986 and 2016, only one team -- the 2008 New England Patriots -- failed to make the playoffs after winning 11 games.

The Rams now have an 85.2 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 55.8 percent chance to win the NFC West, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

"As long as we keep playing like this, we're going to win a lot of games," Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "We just have to stay on track."

"On track" means not thinking beyond their next game, but that won't be easy. The Rams play at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox). In less than three months, that venue will host Super Bowl LII. And given where we are, it's hard not to think ahead and wonder if the Rams will find their way back there in February.


"I don’t think so," McVay said. "I think you know as you’re asking that question."