Since May, this has been the game NFL fans everywhere have had circled on the calendar. Yes, the winless Lions (0-6) against the Cabo San Lucas Rams (5-1, and if you get that Cabo reference then you are a serious Rams gear head). The two franchises traded quarterbacks in the offseason and now here they are facing their old teams again. Jared Goff vs. Matthew Stafford. Oh, sure, there will be 10 other players on the field helping them out, but let's face it: it's the quarterbacks that will get all the gloss, all the glory, and all the consternation here.
How has the trade worked out so far? It depends on whose side you're on. The Rams have been ecstatic with Stafford, who has thrown for 1,838 yards, 16 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 116.6 passer rating. Things haven't gone so swimmingly for Goff, who is aching through a winless season, having thrown for 1,505 yards, seven touchdowns, four interceptions, and an 86.9 passer rating. On top of that, Goff also adds six fumbles to his misery index.
These teams' nearly opposite records reflect their differential in talent, but their last games really underscore the gap. The Rams are coming off a dominating 38-11 whitewashing of the Giants in MetLife Stadium and the Lions are coming off a poor second-half performance in their 34-11 loss at Cincinnati.
Detroit (0-6) at Los Angeles (5-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 24 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -15.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Dan Campbell says Goff "needs to step up"
OK, Jared Goff, here is your white-hot spotlight. Let's see, you're going against your old team, you're going against the head coach who didn't want you, you're going back to play in the same city where you won a slot in the Super Bowl, and now your new head coach is calling you out to amp up your game. What, you need something else to incentivize you? Yes, Lions head honcho Dan Campbell went public with his feelings on Goff needing to amp up his game. But to be fair to Jared, the banged-up receiver corps has not helped, as only four of the seven touchdown passes Goff has thrown have gone to wide receivers, and the tight end and a running back are the top pass-catchers on the team. Speaking of, although he is a little under the radar, Goff's top target has been tight end T.J. Hockenson with 44 targets, 32 receptions, and 311 yards, making him one of the top five tight ends in the NFL.
2. The best Lion QB ever to play for the Rams
So the Rams will counter with a quarterback that will go down in Detroit Lions lore as the greatest ever. Yes, Stafford is the Lions' all-time leader in wins (74), passing yards (45,109), passing TDs (282), and passer rating (89.9), but now he is with the Rams and has them one game behind unbeaten Arizona in the NFC West. Yet head coach Sean McVay was not very happy with the slow start his team got off to against the Giants last Sunday, crawling to a 3-0 deficit in the first quarter. Look for McVay to have Stafford and Co. with a little bit of a fire under their butts from the get-go. Of course, Stafford has the luxury of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods as one of the best prime target duos in the league. Behind Stafford, keep an eye on RB Darrell Henderson Jr., who has increased carries the last three games and could have some success against that 27th-ranked defense against the run that the Lions bring to SoFi Stadium.
3. The best offense is a good defense
Actually, that's not how the saying goes, but it does kinda work for the Rams here. So far this season, the pass defense is third with an 81.6 defensive quarterback rating and 6.9 yards allowed per attempt. The Lions have the worst pass defense in the NFL, allowing a 113.8 QB rating and a hearty 9.8 yards per attempt, both dead last. The Rams also got the better pass rush in this contest, coming off a week where they sacked Daniel Jones four times and had seven QB hits in all. So yes, keep an eye on the pass rush in this game as the Rams have allowed an NFL-low six sacks this year, while the Lions have allowed 15 sacks (21st in the league).
I give a distinct advantage to the Rams in this one since McVay knows so much about Goff thanks to their five years together. He knows what he does well, what he doesn't do well, how to confuse him, and how to rattle him. You also have to give an edge to Stafford, who is looking to stick it to his old team since they were the ones that generally wasted a decade of his life with mostly bad football in the Motor City.
On a personal note, I've got the Rams as my pick this week in the survivor pool I'm playing in.
Prediction: Rams 38, Lions 14
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.