The Detroit Lions welcome the newest version of the 'Greatest Show on Turf' to Ford Field today, as the high-octane Los Angeles Rams look to improve to 11-1 and clinch the NFC West with a victory over the Lions.
At 4-7, the Lions desperately need a win to keep their hopes for a playoff spot alive.
Here's what to look out for in today's matchup:
The Rams average 35.4 points per game, third most in the NFL. Along the way they're racking up 448.6 yards per game, which is the second most. There is no weakness on that side of the ball for the Rams.
It puts a lot of pressure on Detroit's offense to try and keep up. Detroit's defense obviously has to do a good job limiting Los Angeles' offense as best they can, but Detroit's going to have to score some points – probably quite a few points – if they plan to win. Detroit's averaging just 21.6 points per game, and has scored above 30 points just once this season (32 in Miami).
The good news for the Lions is this isn't a dominating Rams' defense. They have talented players on that side of the ball, certainly, but they rank 20th in points allowed (25.6) and 20th in total defense (372.5).
ONE-MAN WRECKING CREW
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is having an MVP-caliber season. He leads the NFL with 14.5 sacks, and has also chipped in 38 tackles and three forced fumbles. He's smart and quick, and that's proven to be a lethal combination over his career. The Rams will move him and fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh around quite a bit based off matchups they like.
The Lions are always going to have to know where Donald is lined up, and have an appropriate plan of attack for him. He can certainly wreck a game if the Lions allow it.
PRIORITY NO. 1
The Rams can sling the ball around in the passing game with the best of them, but it's the run game that was the No. 1 priority for head coach Matt Patricia and some of the Lions defenders that talked to the media this week.
Rams running back Todd Gurley is second in the NFL in rushing (1,043 yards), and leads the league with 13 touchdown runs. His 29 runs of 10-plus yards are second only to Ezekiel Elliott's 31. The Rams are top five in the league in rushing (second) and passing (fifth), a fairly rare feat.
Lions safety Glover Quin said this week that containing Gurley and the run game is the first priority in the hopes of limiting a Rams play-action passing game that is the best in the NFL.
STAYING ON SCHEDULE
Lions starting running back Kerryon Johnson isn't playing today, which means we'll likely see a lot of veteran LeGarrette Blount. He rushed 19 times for 88 yards with two touchdowns against a very good Chicago defense on Thanksgiving.
The Rams are allowing 119.9 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 19th. A good way to keep the ball out of the hands of Gurley, Rams quarterback Jared Goff and the rest of Los Angeles' offensive weapons is for the Lions to run the ball effectively, stay ahead of the sticks, and work the time of possession in their favor.
ALL EYES ON STAFFORD
Matthew Stafford's 17 touchdowns this season ranks 16th among quarterbacks, tied with Baker Mayfield and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who both haven't played 10 games this season. Stafford's played 11.
Stafford's 10 interceptions are tied for the eighth most in the NFL. His 90.8 passer rating ranks 23rd.
This needs to be a bounce-back game for Stafford coming off that two interception, no touchdown performance on Thanksgiving in the loss to the Bears. If the Lions are going to hang with the high-scoring Rams, Stafford needs to play well with one of those signature Stafford performances we've seen from him in the past.