Advertisement

Sorting out the opponents that might face the Rams in second round of playoffs

Sorting out the opponents that might face the Rams in second round of playoffs
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during the teams' Nov. 11 game at the Coliseum. The Rams beat the Seahawks in both games this season. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

They lost to the Chicago Bears, defeated the Seattle Seahawks twice, and watched from afar as the Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East.

The Rams will face one of those teams in an NFC divisional-round playoff game Jan. 12 at the Coliseum. Coach Sean McVay and his players, for the most part, do not have a preference.

Advertisement

“You know it's going to be a great challenge regardless… whether you played a team or not,” McVay said. “Because you say, ‘Well, you've got some familiarity with them.’ Well, they have familiarity with you.

“I think it goes both ways.”

The Rams, seeded second in the NFC behind the New Orleans Saints, earned a bye through the wild-card round. So they will prepare on some level for all three possible opponents while awaiting the results of this weekend’s games.

The fourth-seeded Dallas Cowboys play host to the fifth-seeded Seattle Seahawks on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, and the third-seeded Chicago Bears play host to the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Rams will play the highest-seeded team remaining.

“It don’t matter,” who the Rams play, defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “We just going to be ready for whoever it is.”

Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Just watch the games, see how they unfold and prepare from there,” he said.

The Bears, Cowboys and Seahawks present different types of matchups for a Rams team that finished 13-3 and went unbeaten in the NFC West.

The Bears, under first-year coach Matt Nagy, finished 12-4 and won the NFC North with one of the NFL’s best defenses.

Coordinator Vic Fangio oversees a unit that includes star linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. The Bears gave up a league-low 17.7 points a game and forced a league-high 36 takeaways.

The Bears intercepted four passes and also scored on a safety in a 15-6 victory over the Rams in Week 14 at Soldier Field.

“We lost to the Bears, so, you know, you want to play them again and kind of redeem and get back what you didn’t get the first time,” defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks said.

The Rams would welcome the prospect of again facing a Bears offense featuring second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, rather than dealing with offenses led by the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott or the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.

Prescott passed for 22 touchdowns, with eight interceptions, for a team that won seven of its last eight games and finished 10-6. Prescott also rushed for six touchdowns while leading an offense that features NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott and receiver Amari Cooper.

Advertisement

The Cowboys gave up only 20.2 points a game, which ranks sixth in the NFL.

Though they did not play the Cowboys this season, the Rams are familiar with coach Jason Garrett and many of his players because they defeated the Cowboys, 35-30, last season at AT&T Stadium.

The Seahawks, of course, are a known commodity.

The Rams defeated them, 33-31, in Week 5 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, and, 36-31, in Week 10 at the Coliseum.

After losing to the Rams for the second time, the Seahawks won six of seven games to finish the season with a 10-6 record under coach Pete Carroll.

Wilson passed for 35 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions, for an offense that also featured running back Chris Carson and led the league in rushing. Linebacker Bobby Wagner enjoyed another standout season for a defense that gave up 21.7 points a game.

Last season, the Rams advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. But they came out flat and committed two special teams turnovers in a 26-13 wild-card loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Young players on that team learned valuable lessons.

“Having that experience last year definitely gives us a little taste of what to expect and [urgency] to capitalize on the things we didn’t last year,” tight end Gerald Everett said.

The one-and-done, loser-goes-home nature of the playoffs “definitely gets the adrenaline flowing a lot more,” linebacker Samson Ebukam said.

“It’s completely different — a whole new season,” he said. “You better be ready, or you’re going to get kicked out.”

Advertisement
Advertisement