By Cedric Williams
Officially, the 53 members of the St. Louis Rams players roster don’t have to be back at the Rams Park team training facility until Wednesday.
Head coach Jeff Fisher wanted the players to enjoy their bye week as much as possible, so he gave them all an extended weekend off.
The players practice early Thursday afternoon, then were told they had Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off. Tuesdays are the standard players day off in the NFL, so add that day in too, and the Rams will have had five days off before anyone had to come back to work.
But St. Louis also only has six games left in the regular season, and a huge matchup with the Chicago Bears coming this Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
So no one would really be surprised if many of the Ram players begin trickling in to Rams Park to put in a little extra work to get ready for what could be an exciting six weeks of the season.
“There’s plenty of things that we can do,” quarterback Kellen Clemens said following practice on Thursday. “Again, for a guy in my position this is an opportunity to steal more reps with the guys, those guys that have been starting that I haven’t had a ton of reps with in the first few weeks. So, it’s an opportunity to do that, and then, it’s a great opportunity to work on some of the smaller, fundamental things that you don’t have an opportunity to work on over the course of a game plan week when you’re so focused on the opponent.”
The Rams will come out of the bye with a 4-6 record, which puts them in 12th place in the NFC playoff standings.
That sounds bad. But the Rams are also only two games behind the sixth place team in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers, who lost in overtime on Sunday and are now 6-4 on the season.
St. Louis did lose when it played San Francisco earlier this year, but the Rams will get another shot at the Niners in two weeks, and with a strong finish, they could find themselves right in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt, especially with five of the six remaining contests coming against teams that are currently ahead of them in the standings.
“I think at this point we’re taking it week by week,” Clemens said. “I don’t know what the projections are. I think we’ve still got a chance, obviously, to get in to the dance at the end of the year. What we can handle is one week at a time, and I think that’s our focus.”
The Rams will face Chicago (6-4), San Francisco (6-4), Arizona (6-4), New Orleans (8-2), Tampa Bay (2-8), and Seattle (10-1) to close out the season.
And yes, it would take a near miracle finish for the Rams to get enough wins to earn a playoff spot.
But with a newfound run game led by rookie Zac Stacy, a defense that features Defensive Player of the Year candidate Robert Quinn, and the explosive capabilities of rookie receiver/return man Tavon Austin, whose to say the Rams can’t get it done.
“Well, we’re disappointed with the six (losses) but I think, overall, we’re seeing some improvement,” Fisher said. “Our run game is coming. The last three weeks it’s been 200 (yards) and 160 and 140 against good defenses, and so I think that gives you a chance. And we saw some improvement out of our defense last week as well.”
And with refreshed minds, bodies, and souls — that tends to happen when you get five days off in the middle of an otherwise grueling NFL season — the Rams might just be a team that could come out of nowhere and sneak into that sixth and final playoff spot.
ST. LOUIS RAMS REMAINING SCHEDULE
November 24 — vs. Chicago …………….. noon
December 1 — at San Francisco ….. 3:25 p.m.
December 8 — at Arizona ……………. 3:25 p.m.
December 15 — vs. New Orleans ……… noon
December 22 — vs. Tampa Bay ……….. noon
December 29 — at Seattle …………… 3:25 p.m.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.