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:
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.