The reunion of the year in the NFL is happening today at SoFi Stadium in California. The Detroit Lions and Jared Goff travel west to play the Los Angeles Rams and Matthew Stafford. At this time last year, Goff was under center for the Rams while Stafford was the signal caller for Detroit. After an offseason trade sent Goff and multiple draft picks to the Lions in return for Stafford, both teams are headed in different directions.
The Lions (0-6) are the only winless team left in the league after the Jacksonville Jaguars earned their first win of the year and broke a 20-game losing streak. New QB Goff has struggled, along with the rest of the offense in the Motor City. Detroit has not taken a snap with the lead this season, only the fourth team since 1991 to do that through six games.
The Rams (5-1), on the other hand, are looking like Super Bowl contenders while Stafford is playing at an MVP-caliber level. He has led his team to a 5-1 record for only the second time in his 13-year career, and first since 2011 when the Lions started off 5-0 before losing six of their next 11 games and losing to the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round.
But this year feels different for the quarterback who spent a dozen years in Detroit. With the Rams, he has an explosive offense that was rarely seen during his time in Detroit. While Stafford played with Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, this offense just feels different.
He has a run game in Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel that is arguably the best he has ever had. Henderson is averaging 4.6 yards per carry while he is tenth in the NFL with 372 rushing yards in only five games. He also has four touchdowns. Michel has also been a solid complimentary back with 205 yards and a TD while providing Henderson a breather.
Stafford also has one of the, if not the, best receiving duos in the league. Cooper Kupp is having the best season of his career while being on pace to set career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Through six games, he leads the league in receiving touchdowns (7), is tied for first in receptions with Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill (46) and is only second to Adams in yards (653). His partner in crime, Robert Woods, has 353 yards and three touchdowns, both second on the Rams behind Kupp, but would lead the Lions.
With all of these weapons, Stafford is fourth in yards with 1,838 and third in touchdowns with 16 while only throwing four interceptions.
The offense should continue to hum against one of the worst defenses in the league. The Rams are sixth in the league while averaging 29.8 points per game. Detroit is 25th in points allowed, giving up nearly 29 points per game, while ranking near the bottom of the league in multiple other categories such as yards allowed (25th) and rush yards allowed (26th).
While Stafford is thriving in his first season in the Golden State, the same cannot be said for Goff in his first year in the Great Lakes State. He is 0-6 for the first time since his rookie season and is struggling to find his rhythm without head coach Sean McVay. Goff is 17th in the league with 1,505 yards while only having seven touchdowns to four INTs. He is also leading the league with four lost fumbles and six overall.
While Goff is to blame for a lot of the Lions’ struggles, he can’t shoulder all of the blame. His run game is virtually nonexistent while he may have the worst crop of pass catchers in the NFL.
The Lions, led by Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift, are 23rd in the league in rushing, averaging just over 91 yards per game. Williams, the perceived backup coming into the year, leads the team in rushing with 255 yards while having six less carries than Swift. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry while Swift is struggling at 3.3 YPC.
For all his struggles on the ground, Swift has been a nice surprise catching the ball out of the backfield. He leads the team in receptions with 34 and is second to tight end T.J. Hockenson in yards with 295. Hockenson, the best pass catcher the team has to offer, has 32 receptions and 311 yards along with two touchdowns.
Detroit’s offense may continue to struggle as the Rams have one of the best defenses in the league. They are led by the likes of Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Floyd. This trio has led a team that is ninth in points allowed per game at 21.2 while ranking in the top-10 against the run as well.
The one area that Detroit could succeed in is through the air. The Rams play a bend but don’t break style defense as they allow a lot of yards, especially passing yards. They are 21st in total yards allowed while also being 21st in passing yards allowed.
As for how the game will play out, Stafford should get some sweet revenge against the team and city he called home for over a decade. The Rams should continue to roll offensively while possibly getting their defense on track against one of the worst offenses in football.
The Lions and Goff will struggle on the West Coast and this game could get ugly in a hurry. Detroit has gone scoreless in the first half in three of their last four games and have not scored a TD in the first or second quarters since Week 2.
Stafford should go for 300-plus yards and three-plus scores while the Rams run this one up on Detroit. Goff may get some garbage time yards at the end, but this one should be a blowout.
The Rams will move to 6-1 and stay on pace with the undefeated Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West. Meanwhile, Detroit will fall to 0-7 and the talks of becoming the first 0-17 team in NFL history will continue to rumble.
Rams 38, Lions 17.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com.