Matthew Stafford's receiving corps gives him multiple threats that make the Los Angeles Rams' passing game even more lethal.
Stafford's strong arm that allows him to stretch the field from sideline to sideline or go deep is an obvious threat to defenses, but so is how his receivers add pressure with shorter routes.
It's one of many challenges the Lions face in trying to win their first game against one of the NFC's top teams. The Rams have an explosive offense and a defense with the potential to dominate opponents.
I pick the Rams in this matchup by a substantial margin – enough to cover whatever point spread is floating out there at kickoff. They are too good for the Lions, and Stafford is playing too well to think an upset is likely.
Overall, Stafford has passed for 1,836 yards with 16 TDs and four interceptions. He ranks fourth in the league in passing yards and tied for third with 16 TD passes.
Those are impressive numbers, but it is in other details where Stafford's performance shows how he has caused trouble for opposing defenses.
He is No. 1 with an average of 9.2 yards per pass attempt, first with seven passes that gained 40 or more yards and first with a passer rating of 116.6.
Stafford's strong right arm alone does not make the Rams' offense so explosive, says Lions' defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
"You can have the strongest arm in the world you want," Glenn said. "If you don't have guys who can stretch the field and threaten you in that situation, it doesn't mean anything.
"You have to give a lot of credit to these players and the skilled positions they have. Every receiver they have has that ability.
"The one thing that makes this team such a threat is, not only can they do that, they can work the underneath part. They have skilled players that can punch in and out of cut really, really well."
The Rams have big-play threats from the top of their receiver depth chart to the bottom. For example:
Cooper Kupp leads the Rams with 46 catches. He averages 14.7 yards per catch, with a long reception of 56 yards.
DeSean Jackson, still running strong – and fast – in his 14th season, has eight catches with an average of 27.6 yards and a long reception of 75 yards.
QB-coach connection: Stafford and Rams head coach Sean McVay – who also calls plays – developed a bond quickly.
"He has full control, getting us in and out of the right plays," McVay said earlier this week. "He truly is an extension of the coaching staff on the field.
"If I'm wrong (on a play call), he has the ability to make it right."
On the run: Games such as last week's 34-11 beat down by the Bengals show why the running game is so important to the Lions.
They rushed for 36 yards with a 2.0 yards per carry average. D’Andre Swift rushed for 24 yards and 1.8 yards per carry.
"It hurts," said assistant head coach and running backs coach Duce Staley.
"That's who we are. When you start talking about identity, we want to be known to run the ball. When we can't do something we consider ourselves to be good at, it bothers us."
Goff-Rams practice: There's nothing like the real thing, but Lions quarterback Jared Goff got an inside look at what made the Rams' defense good by practicing against it for five years
"One thing I know about practicing against those guys, you never really understood how to game plan against them until you had to," Goff said.
"It was competitive. It was always great. As on any team, your best players are your hardest workers. Aaron Donald embodied that. Hall of Fame talent. Hall of Fame worker. Hall of Fame person.
"Competing against him every day for five years, he puts it on display every day."
Matching records: For what it's worth – and probably not much – the Lions six opponents have a combined won-loss record of 22-13. The Rams' six opponents are 19-17.
Lions-Rams pick breakdown: For the Lions to make this a game, they have to do to the Rams what the Rams did to the Giants in the second quarter last week – create turnovers and score on them. The Rams got 21 of the 28 points they scored in the quarter off turnovers. It's hard to see that happening. The Rams are heavily favored for a reason.
Pick: Rams 34, Lions 16.