Lions-Rams Final Thoughts: Sticking with my pick of the Rams winning, but six things the Lions can do to pull off an upset starting with LeGarrette Blount and Random Thoughts on Ziggy Ansah, Ndamukong Suh, Matthew Stafford and more:
Carries for LeGarrette Blount: A solid contribution from the run game is vital, and Blount has been at his best with the Lions when he's gotten enough carries to find a rhythm.
Sometimes it's been slow going – like against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day, when Blount was held to eight yards on five carries in the first half. But he's also broken out – and he did that against the Bears, with 80 yards on 14 carries in the second half.
Blount has had double digit carries four times this season – 16 for 48 yards in a win over the Patriots; 12 for 22 with two TDs in a win over the Packers; 10 for 50 and a TD in a win over the Dolphins; and 18 for 88 and two TDs in the last game.
The Lions won't beat the Rams with their running game only with rookie Kerryon Johnson on the sideline. But they need to shorten the game and take away possessions from the Rams' offense. Blount can do that, and he can deliver in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
"Every running back in this league ... is going to want the rock over the course of the game," Blount said. "You want to get lathered up. You want to be able to see how they're playing – how they're fitting the runs, how they're playing against certain runs and stuff.
"Whenever you get a chance to get a few in a row and see how they're doing it, it helps a lot."
Protect Matthew Stafford: That means blocking defensive tackle Aaron Donald, whose 14.5 sacks represent exactly half of the Rams' 29 sacks.
Donald can destroy an offense single handedly. He has 10 sacks in the last five games, and he's playing next to former Lion – and Miami Dolphin – Ndamukong Suh, who has 3.5 sacks and is not a premier interior pass rusher at this stage of a borderline Hall of Fame career.
Even with a depleted receiving corps, if he's given time Stafford can throw on a Rams pass defense that has given up 25 TD passes, second most in the league, and 8.1 yards per pass attempt, sixth most in the league.
Challenge the Rams: That's goes for both sides of the ball.
They have dynamic receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods and a scheme that showcases their skills, but they can't be allowed to catch passes in front of the secondary all game. Challenge them and it might force mistakes.
Giving Stafford time to throw the ball is one thing. Making the Rams defend the entire field – not just the short zones – is another. Teams don't have to take away the deep game if the Lions don't try it. If they do that, they've stopped themselves.
Limit Todd Gurley: It's 1-2 between Gurley and the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott for who's the top running back in the league, and the Lions already were burned once this year by Elliott in a Week 4 loss.
Gurley can gash a defense running and receiving. He's rushed for 1,043 yards and 5.0 yards per carry and has 43 catches for 441 yards and a 10.3-yard average.
The Lions' run defense has been stout since acquiring tackle Damon Harrison in a trade with the Giants, but they haven't faced a back of Gurley's ability.
The dilemma for any defense is obvious: Stop the run, and the Rams will throw.
Bye week blahs: The idea of catching the Rams coming off a bye, after a big win against the Chiefs and making a cross-country road trip seems like an important part of the formula for an upset.
In reality ... not so much.
A year ago the Rams took their bye after a 33-0 win over the Cardinals in Week 7. They returned for a road game against the Giants – a 51-17 win. It was 48-10 before the end of the third quarter.
The Giants won the fourth quarter, 7-3. So there's that.
Breaks, turnovers: Both can change games, and the Lions need both.
On Ziggy Ansah: He was not listed on the injury report this week for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury in the season opener that forced him to miss five games. Ansah has four sacks in the last five games, giving him five for the season.
He's a powerful force off the edge, both rushing the passer and against the run. He finished strong last year with eight sacks in the last six games. He could gear up and do something similar.
On Suh sacks, Stafford: If he's going to get to Stafford, he's going to have to do something he hasn't done on his own since Weeks 3, 4 and 5. He had one sack in each of those games and added a half sack two games ago against Seattle.
For whatever reason, Stafford and Suh never hit it off. If Suh gets to Stafford in any way today – a sack, or part of a pileup, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a little extra celebration on Suh's part.
On Rams tough?: No so much on defense, even with Donald. They gave up 13 points combined in winning their first two games over the Raiders (33-13) and Cardinals (34-0). In the last nine games they've given up 269 points, an average of 29.8888.
Go ahead, round it up to 30.
On LeGarrette Blount/Suh: He didn't belabor the point, but when asked Thursday if he still meant what he said years ago about Suh being a dirty player, Blount replied firmly: "I do."
There was no backing down, which is something he brings to the playing field.
Sticking with my pick: The Lions already have pulled a couple upsets – 26-10 over the Patriots, and 31-23 over the Packers. But both of those games were early in the season – Weeks 5 and 7 – before the Lions lost key offensive players and were still in serious contention in the NFC North. It's a different scenario now.
Prediction: Rams 33, Lions 23.