It's appropriate here to pay tribute to TV's most famous coroner, Mr. Jack Klugman, who passed away Christmas Eve at age 90. Take care, sir, and remember: on those notes that Tony Randall left you in the beyond, "F.U." is nothing vulgar. In case you forget.
This week's stuffing of the stiffs provides a challenge for the Football Nation ME's office, as a quartet of optimistic battalions fell just short of a chance at the postseason. While there may be some glaring issues with the teams in question, some that stand out as Achilles heels, truth is they're practically no better or worse than a few teams hovering around the wild card range.
And so it is more due to overcrowding that these teams are eliminated, and not necessarily being outright awful. If the NFL had the expanded playoff bracket currently in discussion, a few of these bodies upon the slabs would still be upright.
But expanded playoffs is just another chance for more injuries, right? And Goodell would certainly want to avoid that, even if it means more money for him.
*sigh* A coroner's work is never done.
Subject: St. Louis Rams
Date of Death: December 23, 2012
Record at Time of Death: 7-7-1
Contributing Factors to Death:
1. Offense Isn't Quite There
Rome wasn't built in a day, but new coach Jeff Fisher has made some great leaps on the defensive side of the ball. The Rams have seen increases in both sacks (39 to 45 so far) and interceptions (12 to 17). The run defense has vastly improved, going from allowing 152.1 yards a game in 2011 to 115.1 this season.
Most importantly, points per game has decreased from 25.4 to 21.9 PPG.
So while stars like Cortland Finnegan, Chris Long, Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis, and rookie Janoris Jenkins have turned the Gateway Arch into a brooding fortress, the other side of the ball is still trying to piece things together.
After averaging a league-worst 12.1 PPG last season, the Rams have upped that average to 19.1 PPG, which is an astonishing turnaround.
But take away 4 pick-sixes and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and their average dips to 16.7 PPG. Even then, the 19.1 average makes them the seventh worst scoring team in the league.
The Rams also have a 32.3 percent success rate on third downs, the fourth worst in the league.
2. Can't Turn Opportunities Into Points
Further examination of that 16.7 PPG accounted for by Sam Bradford and the offense reveals some more startling numbers.
St. Louis holds the sixth worst "scoreability" average in the NFL, according to Cold Hard Football Facts, which means they have the highest average 'yards per points scored'.
In other words, if you took every team's total offensive yards, and you divided those numbers by how many points they scored on the year, the teams with the lowest numbers score more points, more often.
The Rams' average is 17.25, meaning they average 17.25 yards per point scored. In other words, a full touchdown for them requires 120.75 yards to be gained.
The six teams worse than them in this category all happen to be in the league's five worst teams: Detroit, Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Kansas City.
Stretching the field for points is a concern. St. Louis has 11 plays of 40+ yards this year, but only 2 since November began: a 46-yard Steven Jackson run, and an 80-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks.
3. Midseason Blues
You have 16 games to state your playoff case, so a prolonged slump could be all that's necessary to kill your season, statistics be damned.
St. Louis found themselves 3-2 after a particularly nasty beatdown of the then-undefeated Cardinals, totaling 9 sacks on a shell-shocked Kevin Kolb. At that point, it seemed as though the Rams were going be a breakthrough team.
After that, 3 straight losses piled up before the bye. First, a 17-14 loss to the Dolphins, where Greg Zuerlein missed a long potential tying field goal. Then Green Bay bested them 30-20, before New England smashed them 45-7 in London.
After the bye, they tied San Francisco 24-all, even though the Rams should have won in overtime twice. A 27-13 loss to the Jets a week later sunk St. Louis to 3-6-1.
Despite winning 3 straight after that, teams like Washington, Seattle, Minnesota, and others leapfrogged them, shutting St. Louis out of the playoff race.