One Two of these years are not like the others.
The Rams (ranked 17th) have reached their highest point in the ESPN Power Rankings since 2010, and are knocking on the door of the upper bracket for only the second time in the last six years. Now, the worth of these kinds of rankings is next to none when it comes to matching up on the football field, but they provide an easy shorthand to describe our team's competitiveness. And it's hard to argue with the consensus opinion of our mostly-bedraggled teams of 2007-11.
This is a case where I agree with the consensus. Are the Rams trending up? Absolutely. Are they ready to challenge the elites? Not on your life.
In the short term, the Rams continue their regular-season playoff prep course with a matchup against the Minnesota Vikings (ranked 16th, while we're talking about it). Only one of these two teams' slim playoff hopes will remain alive after this matchup, making this the equivalent of a "win or go home" game in Week 15. Remaining opponents Tampa Bay (18th) and Seattle (10th) may also have playoff chances on the line. This is a worthy December challenge for a growing team.
In the long term, this chart displays an ugly trend that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are charged with correcting. In 2006, 2010 and now 2012, the Rams fought and clawed their way to a respectable season. In 2007 and 2011 (the purple and brown lines on the above chart), that respectability quickly fell out the window. The Rams, as a franchise, are not one that's known for sustaining success. That is the culture that must be changed here.
To their credit, I believe Fisher and his staff are going about it the right way, going extremely young on the roster to breed out the memories of past failures, and going veteran on the coaching staff to coach good habits into the new stock. They also have a good shot at retaining their key players and coaching personnel, giving them a chance to sustain and build on their success so far.