April 19, 2024

With his team enjoying something of a mini-bye, Sean McVay was not unlike millions who spent much of the holiday weekend watching NFL football.

Though the Rams coach is focused on preparing his players for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, McVay kept a close eye on the NFC playoff picture as games unfolded.

“I pay a lot of attention to it,” he said Tuesday during a videoconference with reporters, “and I tell myself not to get emotionally invested in these games, and then you get invested and you’re saying, ‘Why the hell did I do that?’”

The Rams are 8-7, and they currently hold the No. 6 seed in the NFC.

They can ensure themselves a postseason berth if they defeat the Giants (5-10) on Sunday and the San Francisco 49ers in the season finale.

Yet that is not the only scenario that would put the Rams in the playoffs after missing out last season because of a historic Super Bowl hangover.

The Rams can clinch a playoff spot Sunday if they defeat the Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and the No. 7 Seahawks (8-7) lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) in Seattle.

The Rams also can clinch if they defeat the Giants, and the Green Bay Packers (7-8) and the Minnesota Vikings (7-8) tie in Minneapolis.

“What I do know is true is that we’ve got to continue to focus on what we can control — and that’s the Giants,” McVay said. “But I’m very aware of all the things that are going on. But I do think it’s important to not let that take away from the task at hand, because you can get caught up with other stuff and playing the ‘what-if’ game.

“And what I think the best thing this team has done is they have focused on what they can control to put themselves in a position even to have the conversations we’re having now.”

After losing to the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 5 — with quarterback Matthew Stafford sidelined because of a right thumb injury — the Rams had an off week on Nov. 12 to heal, rest and ponder their 3-6 record.

They have since won five of six games, the only defeat a 37-31 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the top-seeded team in the AFC.

Last Thursday, the Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints 30-22 at SoFi Stadium, a victory that put them over .500.

“Since we came out that bye week, it was a playoff atmosphere,” safety John Johnson said after the victory over the Saints. “We had a lot of ground to make up. A lot.

“So, we got back even. Now we’re back to positive and it’s realistic. … I think we have a good shot, we just have to keep ballin’.”

While Stafford has been exceptional, and the Rams’ defense has been playing well enough to win, special teams remain an issue.

Kicker Lucas Havrisik has made 15 of 20 field-goal attempts, but only two of six from between 40 and 49 yards. McVay intimated last week that a 47-yard miss against the Saints was a snap operation breakdown.

Long snapper Alex Ward is on injured reserve because of a neck issue, and Carson Tinker has snapped the last two games. The Rams on Tuesday cut running back Darrell Henderson from the practice squad and signed snapper Alex Matheson “as a potential way to get some competition” at that spot, McVay said.

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