|Having possibly the best QB and defense in the NFC West gives the Rams an advantage.|
The Rams are only half a game out of first place with a 4-4 record. It took a little luck today, with Arizona losing a close one to Tampa Bay 38-35; and the first place Seattle Seahawks got blown out by the Oakland Raiders 33-3. Here are the standings:
Seattle Seahawks 4-3 .571
St. Louis Rams 4-4 .500
Arizona Cardinals 3-4 .429
San Francisco 49ers 2-6 .250
Technically the Rams could be in first place a week from now. All it would take is a little luck in the form of Arizona losing to Minnesota (in Minnesota), and Seattle losing to the New York Giants (in Seattle). If that happens, then the Rams and Seahawks would have equal records at 4-4, but the Rams would own the tiebreaker (due to their 20-3 victory over Seattle back in week 4).
If the Rams do exit their bye week in first place, then they will certainly be in a good position to win the NFC West. Why wouldn't they be? They have the best quarterback in the division, as well as the best defense, and those are two major factors when it comes to winning a division.
There are only two crystal clear obstacles that stand in the Rams' way. The first obstacle being their receiving core. The season ending injuries to Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton have left the undersized Danny Amendola as only receiver with any value. Danario Alexander gave fans a glimpse of hope, but he is out 2-4 weeks with another knee injury. So other than Amendola, one of the other receivers (Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson, Mardy Gilyard) needs to step it up. Also, if tight-ends Mike Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells can elevate their game, then it would certainly help the Rams overcome their woes at receiver.
The other clear obstacle is the Rams inability to win on the road. The road games against Arizona, Oakland, and Tampa Bay, were all close games that could have gone either way. Even so, the Rams have yet to finish the job on the road. Five of their eight remaining games are on the road, including a tough three game road trip that will take them to Atlanta, Denver, and New Orleans.
When return from their bye-week on the road against San Francisco. If they Rams are serious about making a run at the West, then it would be very helpful if they won that game. Their ability to win on the road should improve after they get that first road victory out of the way. They need to establish an ability to play on the road BEFORE that tough three game trip, not during it.
If the Rams win just two of their away games, then they will be in good shape. If that happens, they should be able to earn an 8-8 record pretty easily, and that record could be enough to win the division. If they can't find a way to win on the road, then their best case scenario is a 7-9 season.
It is going to be a close race in the NFC West. The loss to Tampa was huge, because if they would've won, then they would have some room for error. Since they lost that game, they can't really afford to lose any home games, because now you have to assume that they will lose the majority of their remaining road games.
One thing is for sure, which is that the Rams have showed major improvements over their 2009 campaign. If the Rams do fall short of the playoffs in 2010, then it shouldn't matter. No one was expecting a Super Bowl trophy this season, so the major improvements should be appreciated no matter what the outcome. It is hard to not be anxious for 2011 and beyond, but all I know is that it's good to still be excited about football in November for a again.