Rams-Lions: How St. Louis Will Win in Week 5
The Rams are on a roll.
Wow. Its been a long time since I could say that.
St. Louis turned in its best performance of the year in Week 4, dominating the Seahawks en route to a 20-3 victory. The Rams now stand at 2-2 and the whispers have begun (Could the Rams really challenge for the NFC West title this year?).
Potentially premature crowing aside, this Rams team is starting to develop an identity.
Steven Jackson is the inspirational leader, giving everything he has each Sunday.
Sam Bradford is the emerging star, silencing critics and gaining fans.
The defense, which has allowed only 13 points per game (and only two field goals in the last six quarters) is beginning to resemble a "Steve Spagnuolo defense." While they are still in the bottom third of the league in yards allowed, they are in the top 10 in third down percentage allowed, red zone defense and points allowed.
What this team does not have yet is a road victory, so it would stand to reason that a game at the Rams' "dome away from home" in Detroit would be just what they need, right?
I'm not so sure.
To be perfectly honest, the Lions worry me.
That said, here's how I think the Rams will get another "W" in Week 5.
The Story: Rocky III?
Here's what has me worried.
The Rams have maintained an underdog identity for years. Now, they finally find themselves with a bit of success. Will that change the approach?
Detroit, on the other hand, is Clubber Lang. They have fought hard, but have not been given their due. They are looking to take down a team like the Rams, who they might see as a "paper champion."
And, let's be clear. Detroit has not played like an 0-4 team. They have talent, and they have been close in three of their four games.
Jahvid Best and Ndamukong Suh provide a one-two punch with knockout potential (not to mention Calvin Johnson and Louis Delmas).
The Rams need to maintain the "eye of the tiger." They can't be complacent. They can't let up one bit.
If they do, they'll be looking up from their backs.
In this league, I pity the fool who does not take each opponent seriously.
But enough movie quotes. The Rams are not going to be the Rocky III version of Balboa.
Steve "don't call me Mickey" Spagnuolo won't allow it.
As Rocky said to his dying trainer "we've got more to do!" (Oops! Guess I had one more quote after all).
The Subplot: Battle of The Young Guns on, or Delayed?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
When the schedule came out, this was set to be the fist battle between first overall selections Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford.
Unfortunately, a Week 1 injury to Stafford may delay this matchup.
As of this writing, Stafford seems like he is a longshot to play this week. He will reportedly try throwing, but my guess is he won't play unless he has surprisingly good results.
Instead, it will be Shaun Hill, who has played well in Stafford's absence, including a 300 yard performance in Week 4.
Frankly, I'd rather it be a rusty Stafford this week than a hot (well, at least warm) handed Hill.
As for Bradford, his strong showing in his first month is the talk of the league. He has simply not looked like a rookie.
More importantly, he will continue to get better.
But, as far as first overall picks go, he may have the stage to himself on Sunday.
The Key Matchup: Ndamukong Suh Vs. Jason Brown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
While you would be hard pressed to find a Rams fan who regrets the team's decision to draft Bradford No. 1 overall, Ndamukong Suh has lived up to his pre-draft hype.
In addition to his own stats (3 sacks in four games), his presence has elevated the play of the Lions' front four, and bolstered a pass rush that has 13 sacks after four games.
Jason Brown is one of the few centers in the league who is big and strong enough to contend with a player like Suh.
He'll need to be up to the task, as the Rams like to run Steven Jackson inside and certainly want to keep Suh from introducing himself to Bradford.
My gut tells me that this will be a tough week for Suh, who will find that Brown is one of the more underrated inside blockers in the league.
The Forecast: Rams 24 Lions 20
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Rams will enter this game with a keen understanding of how important it is to continue winning.
The days of moral victories must be put in the past.
If the Rams are to be taken seriously, they need to be able to go on the road and beat a talented, but not unstoppable, Lions team.
The Lions will put up a fight.
While the Rams will do a good job of controlling Best, he'll make a big play at some point in the game.
Bradford will get hit, but he'll use quick throws and roll outs to counter the Lions' pass rush.
Steven Jackson will have his first 100 yard rushing performance of the year.
A big turnover by the Lions will be a major factor.
In the end, the Rams will outlast the Lions, and send them to another close defeat, as St. Louis takes sole possession of the division lead in the NFC West.
That's how I see it.