Rams in contention despite baffling numbers

The St. Louis Rams are back in the playoff hunt despite a bevy of numbers that say they shouldn't be. They may not make the playoffs, but they have certainly had an impact on them to this point with wins over contending teams.

As the Vikings are deep in film study of the St. Louis Rams, the first question that comes to mind is how this team is 6-6-1 and still in the playoff hunt.

The Rams were one of only two teams that had a worse record than the Vikings last season, along with the Indianapolis Colts in 2011. Last season, those three teams combined to have a record of 7-41. With three weeks left in the regular season, those same three teams have a combined record of 22-16-1 and all three remain in the middle of the playoff chase.

For the Colts, the arrival of Andrew Luck has them in contention. The Vikings can thank Adrian Peterson for their inclusion in the playoff chase. But the Rams? The numbers don't match up, but there could be a lot of teams that will point at the Rams if their playoff hopes are impacted. They have wins at home over Washington, Seattle and San Francisco. If the Redskins or Seahawks miss the playoffs, they can point to losses to the Rams as the reason. The 49ers are currently in line for a first-round playoff bye. If they lose out on that, they can look directly at their 0-1-1 record against St. Louis as the reason for their failure.

But how are they doing it? The numbers don't lie and there are too many of them going against the Rams to explain why they're at .500, but prove that the team is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Consider the following:

  • Not only have the Rams been outscored by 43 points (279-236), they've been outscored in every quarter this season.

  • They have a time of possession disparity of 1:20 a game (29:20 to 30:40).

  • They have absorbed a four-game losing streak that dropped their record at the time to 3-6-1.

  • They have allowed 45 more first downs on defense than they have gained on offense.

  • They have committed 23 more penalties (99) than their opponents (76).

  • They have allowed opponents to complete two-thirds of their passes (300 of 450) and hold a cumulative passer rating of 85.4.

  • They have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns while scoring just four.

  • The bell cow running back Steven Jackson is averaging less than four yards a carry.

  • They don't have a receiver averaging more than 50 yards a game through 13 games.

  • Opponents are averaging more than three yards a return more both on punts (10.2 yards) and kickoffs (24.8) than the Rams (6.9 yards on punts, 21.3 yards on kickoffs).

  • The Rams have fumbled the ball 20 times, while forcing just 11 fumbles.

    The Rams are still in the playoff hunt and could deliver a near death blow to the Vikings, who enter play Sunday with a 1-5 road record. Like the Vikings, they have made great strides in their improvement after hitting bottom at 2-14. There is reason for optimism, thanks to the trade with the Redskins for Robert Griffin III that will bring the Rams a pair of first-round draft picks over the next two seasons.

    Head coach Jeff Fisher has this team believing in itself and there is reason to believe there are brighter days ahead. But, simply looking at the numbers, one can only be left with the conclusion that the Rams are doing it with smoke and mirrors because so many of the indicators of success aren't on the Rams' side. Yet, at 6-6-1, they're playing a playoff elimination game with the Vikings Sunday and they've got the game in their own house.

    They may not be doing it pretty, but, riding a three-game winning streak, the Rams are a team to be concerned with because, if you take them lightly, they can jump up and bite you – just ask the 49ers, Seahawks and Redskins about that. They may not be a playoff team this year, but they will definitely have an impact on who's in, who's out and who's seeded where in the NFC playoffs.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Packer Report Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" As the Vikings are deep in film study of the St. Louis Rams, the first question that comes to mind is how this team is 6-6-1 and still in the playoff hunt. The Rams were one of only two teams that had a worse record than the Vikings last season, along with the Indianapolis Colts in 2011. Last season, those three teams combined to have a record of 7-41. With three weeks left in the regular season, those same three teams have a combined record of 22-16-1 and all three remain in the middle of the playoff chase. For the Colts, the arrival of Andrew Luck has them in contention. The Vikings can thank Adrian Peterson for their inclusion in the playoff chase. But the Rams? The numbers don't match up, but there could be a lot of teams that will point at the Rams if their playoff hopes are impacted. They have wins at home over Washington, Seattle and San Francisco. If the Redskins or Seahawks miss the playoffs, they can point to losses to the Rams as the reason. The 49ers are currently in line for a first-round playoff bye. If they lose out on that, they can look directly at their 0-1-1 record against St. Louis as the reason for their failure. But how are they doing it? The numbers don't lie and there are too many of them going against the Rams to explain why they're at .500, but prove that the team is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Consider the following:
  • Not only have the Rams been outscored by 43 points (279-236), they've been outscored in every quarter this season.
  • They have a time of possession disparity of 1:20 a game (29:20 to 30:40).
  • They have absorbed a four-game losing streak that dropped their record at the time to 3-6-1.
  • They have allowed 45 more first downs on defense than they have gained on offense.
  • They have committed 23 more penalties (99) than their opponents (76).
  • They have allowed opponents to complete two-thirds of their passes (300 of 450) and hold a cumulative passer rating of 85.4.
  • They have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns while scoring just four.
  • The bell cow running back Steven Jackson is averaging less than four yards a carry.
  • They don't have a receiver averaging more than 50 yards a game through 13 games.
  • Opponents are averaging more than three yards a return more both on punts (10.2 yards) and kickoffs (24.8) than the Rams (6.9 yards on punts, 21.3 yards on kickoffs).
  • The Rams have fumbled the ball 20 times, while forcing just 11 fumbles. The Rams are still in the playoff hunt and could deliver a near death blow to the Vikings, who enter play Sunday with a 1-5 road record. Like the Vikings, they have made great strides in their improvement after hitting bottom at 2-14. There is reason for optimism, thanks to the trade with the Redskins for Robert Griffin III that will bring the Rams a pair of first-round draft picks over the next two seasons. Head coach Jeff Fisher has this team believing in itself and there is reason to believe there are brighter days ahead. But, simply looking at the numbers, one can only be left with the conclusion that the Rams are doing it with smoke and mirrors because so many of the indicators of success aren't on the Rams' side. Yet, at 6-6-1, they're playing a playoff elimination game with the Vikings Sunday and they've got the game in their own house. They may not be doing it pretty, but, riding a three-game winning streak, the Rams are a team to be concerned with because, if you take them lightly, they can jump up and bite you – just ask the 49ers, Seahawks and Redskins about that. They may not be a playoff team this year, but they will definitely have an impact on who's in, who's out and who's seeded where in the NFC playoffs.
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