The Detroit Lions take the long trip out to the west coast to face Matthew Stafford and the red-hot Los Angeles Rams in a Week 7 matchup. The 5-1 Rams are trying to keep pace with the top teams in the NFC, while the Lions are trying record their first win of the season.
Here are five things to watch out for in today's matchup:
1. STAFFORD VS. GOFF
It's been a storyline in Detroit and Los Angeles all week. The two veteran quarterbacks were traded for one another this offseason, with the Lions also getting two first-round picks and a third rounder in the deal.
Jared Goff has talked on multiple occasions since the trade about having a chip on his shoulder about how the trade went down, and how the Rams gave up on him. He'll no-doubt be motivated coming back to where his career began.
Stafford asked for a trade after last season, and the Lions put him in a pretty good situation to succeed out in LA. Stafford and the Rams can't afford to look past the Lions if they're going to keep pace with the undefeated Cardinals in the NFC West.
Stafford has a ton of weapons and the better team behind him. Can Goff overcome some of Detroit's limitations offensively and recapture some old magic in his return home?
2. PLAN FOR DONALD & RAMSEY
Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn used a ton of superlatives to describe Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is arguably the most dominant player in the NFL.
Donald is an unorthodox player with amazing speed, strength and hustle for his size. He's had double-digit sacks four years straight, and he's off to a pretty good start in that department this year with 3.5. He's got six sacks in three career games vs. the Lions. Donald can singlehandedly wreck a game if the Lions allow him to.
Lynn said they'll try to have four hands on him as often as they can, but there will be situations where he's matched up one-on-one, and in those situations the Lions have win some of those matchups.
Jalen Ramsey is one of the best cornerbacks in football and is second in the NFL this year forcing six incompletions. He's as lockdown as this league has, so it will be interesting to see how the Rams use him against the Lions and their limited skill weapons.
3. LIMIT THE BIG PLAYS
This was an emphasis last week against the Bengals, and Cincinnati was still able to execute three plays of 30-plus yards to set up points.
Stafford and the Rams' skill weapons are on a whole different level. Stafford enters Sunday leading the NFL with seven completions of 40-plus yards.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson can still take the top off a defense, while Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have combined for 1,006 receiving yards this season, the most by any receiver duo in the league.
Even running back Darrell Henderson Jr. has gotten into the big-play action for the Rams. He has 491 scrimmage yards and five scrimmage touchdowns in 2021.
The Rams have scored 29.8 PPG (6th in NFL) while the Lions have allowed 28.7 PPG this season (T-25th).
4. START FASTER
There are a couple statistics that really explain some of the offensive struggles for the Lions this season. One, they've never possessed the ball with the lead. Two, they've trailed by double digits in the second half of every game this season.
Slow starts, playing from behind and never getting into a tempo or rhythm offensively are not recipes for success in the NFL.
Detroit's been outscored 92-33 in the first half of games this season. Somehow Lynn and the Lions' offense have to find a way to start faster. They've got to script it better and then get out of their own way with some of the penalties and negative plays that have plagued them early in games.
Expect some more no-huddle and two-minute offense today as Detroit tries to get Goff and this offense into some kind of tempo and rhythm.
5. NFL's NEW GEM
SoFi Stadium is the newest and grandest entertainment complex in the NFL, and it came at a hefty $5 billion price tag.
It has a fixed, translucent roof that can also project images that can be seen from airplanes flying into LAX.
It's also got an Infinity Screen, which is an ovular, double-sided 4K HDR video board, the first of its kind, that is suspended from the roof over the field.
Today is the first time the Lions play at SoFi, and even those not in LA for the game who are watching on television, will still be able to appreciate the NFL's new gem.