The Detroit Lions welcome the Los Angeles Rams to Detroit Sunday night in what may be the best storyline of Super Wild Card Weekend.
Detroit hosts its first playoff game in over 30 years after winning the NFC North Division and gets rewarded with a matchup against its former franchise QB Matt Stafford and the Rams, who just so happen to be their current franchise QB Jared Goff’s former home. Stafford starting a playoff game in Detroit is something he never got to do in 12 years with the franchise and on top of that, this is also Stafford and the Rams’ first game in Detroit period since the trade that swapped the star quarterbacks.
The Lions are facing California-sized pressure to prove the doubters wrong and take the next step. Will the ghosts of QBs past undo them? Or will the Motor City rise to the occasion and find a new gear? We’ll find out Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET.
Both squads should find plenty of motivation in this one; they’re healthy and primed for a playoff classic. The Lions hope to make their home fans proud and end decades of franchise futility, while the Rams hope to put their stamp back on the league and prove that they haven’t fallen off from their 2022 Super Bowl championship quite as hard as we all thought.
Rams vs. Lions odds
|Rams Moneyline Odds
|Lions Moneyline Odds
|52 points (over -110, under -110)
|January 14, 8:00 p.m. ET
|Broadcast: TSN 4, TSN 5, CTV
About the Rams (10-7 SU, 10-6-1 ATS, 9-8 o/u)
Were it not for injuries to key players this season, I might be here talking about the division champion Los Angeles Rams. Even in a division led by the powerhouse 49ers, the Rams are a team with legitimate pedigree that have received an injection of talent this year to take their program back to the upper echelons.
The surprising emergence of first-year wideout Puka Nacua papered over the early season absence of star WR and Matt Stafford bestie Cooper Kupp. In his rookie year, Nacua amassed 105 catches for 1,486 yards and cemented himself as a mainstay, even upon Kupp’s return. Stafford’s newfound wealth of options continued to grow, as the Rams added veteran pass catcher Demarcus Robinson to a squad already boasting Kupp, Nacua, TE Tyler Higbee and the deep threat speedster Tutu Atwell. Matt Stafford used these weapons to post a rebound season on the stat sheet, throwing for 3,965 yards with a 24-11 TD-to-INT ratio and an average QB rating of 92.5. All that despite missing two games with injury.
It can be argued quite convincingly that it’s L.A.’s air offence that has led it to the playoffs this year and you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking it’s the star of the show, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning the monumental contribution from second year RB sensation Kyren Williams.
Williams, a fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, had an unassuming rookie year last year in L.A., before blowing the doors off this season. His 1,144 rushing yards place him third league-wide, behind only Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey, absolute giants at the position. All this on a west coast offence team led by gunslinger Matt Stafford, Williams has proven indispensable and gives L.A. a unique threat on every down. Much like their opponents in Detroit, the Rams’ wins and losses are determined by the potency of their attack, and it’s an attack that can hurt you in many ways.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams defensive corps is not the nightmare-inducing squad of 2022, but still boasts some monster talent, chief among them being Aaron Donald. Detroit’s talented o-line will be tested by Donald and the rest of the L.A. pass rush on a down-by-down basis, and in this clash of offensive titans, it may be a defensive stop of two that ultimately turns the tide.
About the Lions (12-5 SU, 12-5 ATS, 11-6 o/u)
The Lions boast one of the league’s best offences and that offence is particularly potent at home. They sit third in total yards per game, fifth in rush yards, second in pass yards and Goff owns the league’s fifth-best average passer rating. Paramount to Goff’s success in the pocket is the 31 sacks (fourth-least in the league) he’s taken all year.
Complementing Goff and the passing game is the running back tandem of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. This two-headed monster has caused fits for opposing defences when healthy and makes it very difficult to scheme against Detroit’s arsenal of weapons. On that note, one bright spot for their opponents this week may be how well the Rams and HC Sean McVay know Goff. The Rams long tried to make it work with Goff until finally opting to make the trade for Stafford. They know him better than any team outside of Detroit and may have some tricks up their sleeves for their former pivot.
That being said, Goff has experienced unprecedented success in Detroit, finding a sense of identity that eluded him in California. He may not be the man the Rams knew anymore and their bag of tricks may only apply to his former self. That will be up to Goff and the Lions coaching staff to manage, but the wealth of weapons at his disposal make for a myriad of options with which to combat his former demons.
Although the plaudits for the offence are numerous, Detroit’s Achilles’ heel has been and remains to be its defence. This weakness is particularly glaring when faced off against a prolific passing attack, similar to the one Los Angeles just so happens to boast. Though it has improved at times this year, the Lions defence corps has a tendency to revert to bad old ways and bad old habits. In order to exorcise the demons plaguing this franchise for so long, and vanquish their former QB, the best and most steadfast traits of the 2023-2024 Lions defence will have to be on full display. If those less than ideal tendencies re-emerge, the Lions will have to continue to wait for playoff glory.
Despite being generally middle of the road, the Lions defence does tend to excel at stopping the run. They’ve held opponents to 88.8 rushing yards per game (second-fewest in the NFL) and 3.7 yards per carry (third-fewest in league). Forcing Stafford and the Rams to pass isn’t necessarily a bad thing for L.A., but as much as that’s been a staple of the offence, the ground game of Williams has made everyone better.
If Detroit can manage to stifle Williams it’ll go a long way in securing its first playoff victory since 1991.
Total points over 52
Injuries to both tight ends are grabbing all the headlines ahead of Sunday’s clash. L.A.’s Higbee has been limited in practice all week after missing the Rams’ Week 18 game with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Detroit TE Sam LaPorta has yet to practice at all this week while rehabbing a knee injury. A key cog in the Lions offence, Laporta maintains that he is very optimistic about his chances of suiting up on Sunday and Detroit is certainly hoping he will.
Detroit’s Ford Field is a dome and will not be impacted by weather this weekend. That being said, the weather outlook for Detroit is good, without significant rain, snow or wind predicted.
- The Lions are wearing their all “Honolulu Blue” uniforms this weekend and are 5-0 this year when wearing them.
- The Rams have hit the team total over in their last seven games.
- The Lions have hit the moneyline in 15 of their last 21 games.
- The Rams have scored first in only five of their last 13 games.
Player Prop Trends
- Williams has five rushing TDs over his last three games, including three in the Rams’ New Year’s Eve win over the Giants.
- Donald, a four-time defensive player of the year, may be getting a little long in the tooth, but is still averaging 2.3 QB hits per game this season to go with eight total sacks.
- Nacua is averaging 9.4 targets per game and hasn’t seen his target rate drastically affected by having Kupp in the lineup.
Wagers To Consider
- This a clash of offensive juggernauts, that no matter the outcome, should satisfy fans of high-scoring, barn-burner football. With middling pass defences on both sides, hammer the over on the 52-point total.
- While picking an outright winner in this drama-filled clash might prove difficult, we shouldn’t shy away from offensive props. Whether you choose to back some team-wide targets or milestones for individual players, you’ll have a wealth of viable options in this one.