Trending up: St. Louis Rams

ST. LOUIS -- As part of our NFL season wrap-up, the NFL Nation reporters covering teams that didn't make the postseason were asked to offer an opinion on whether his or her team was trending up or down heading into 2014.

Regardless of record, the idea was to identify teams that seem to be moving in the right direction coming out of the 2013 season. As it was, only eight teams were given arrows pointing up. From there, Buffalo reporter Mike Rodak came up with a great idea to have the reporters from each of those eight teams rank them from one to eight based on how likely it is that each team makes the playoffs in 2014.

I believe the Rams did improve from 2012 to 2013, though it's harder to categorize that improvement based on the loss of quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending ACL tear. When I ranked the teams, I placed the Rams fifth behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

To be clear, I don't believe the Rams are less talented than those teams, I just believe they have a more difficult path to getting back to the playoffs. Further explanation can be found in the chart below, but as we all know, the NFC West division is brutal. Even Arizona, the team with the best record of non-playoff qualifiers got pushed down on my rankings because of it. The margin for error is just smaller in the NFC West.