Wait, are those the Rams knocking on the NFL playoff door?

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If not for the Green Bay Packers’ Sunday night surprise win against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Rams would currently have the final playoff spot in the NFC. They are on a three-game winning streak since their bye week and the offense is humming even with Cooper Kupp sidelined with an injury for a second time this season.

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The Rams have topped 35 points in consecutive weeks, including a Week 13, 36-19 victory against the Cleveland Browns and their outstanding defense. With a schedule that is light on competition until a Week 18 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams have quickly turned around a team that bottomed out last season.

Their “F them picks,” strategy finally ran out of steam in 2022. Combine that with significant injuries to Matthew Stafford and Aaron Donald, and they just did not have enough fighters to defend their championship. The Rams finished the 2022 season 5-12, which was the third-worst record in the NFC. They also, per usual, did not have a first-round selection. The Rams have not had a pick in the first round of the draft since they selected Jared Goff No. 1 overall in 2016.

However, they did hit a home run in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. CJ Stroud is going to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but Puka Nacua made him work for it. The Rams’ rookie wide receiver has been on a tear since opening the season with a 10-catch, 119-yard debut.

In 12 games, he has hauled in 77 passes for 1,029 yards and four touchdowns. He fell in the draft because of concerns about his speed. Only Nacua, Tyreek Hill and Deebo Samuel have clocked in at 20 or more miles per hour on both a reception and a rush this season. The Rams finally let Nacua run some jet sweeps against the Browns — he scored five rushing touchdowns in his final year of college. On two carries he totaled 34 yards.

Nacua has not been the only standout in Sean McVay’s high-flying offense. Second-year running back Kyren Williams — another fifth-round pick — has rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns despite missing five games due to injury. Tutu Atwell has been strong as the No. 2 receiver for most of this season with Kupp missing so much time. Royce Freeman has been a steady No. 2 back, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Also, Stafford has played in every game this season. His turnovers are high with nine interceptions, but that was inevitable when combining his gunslinging style with a group of young wide receivers. Stafford has completed 60.7 percent of his passes in 2023 for 2,768 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Rams’ offense is ninth in DVOA.

While the offense has largely been rolling all season, the defense has struggled. Outside of Aaron Donald, the Rams don’t have any big-name talent on that side of the ball. Since the bye week, though, they have not allowed a team to break 20 points once. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has been a no-fly zone for opposing offenses in his contract year.

After this season, $80 million in dead money comes off of the Rams’ books. They also still have their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Selling young professional athletes on working in Los Angeles should not be a problem during the offseason.

For now, the Rams have pieced together one helluva 2023. They had all of that dead money on the books and seven years with no first-round pick holding them back. The Rams charged ahead, horns first, and with five games remaining on a favorable schedule, the playoffs are well within their grasp.

The Rams sent away more than half a decade of top draft capital and accumulated a staggering amount of debt. In doing so they have appeared in two Super Bowls — winning one — and 2022 was only their second losing season since returning to Los Angeles. I guess “F them picks” was the “F’n right” strategy.

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