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St. Louis Rams vs. Detroit Lions: Spread Info, Line and Predictions

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions catches a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In a Week 1 battle of two teams sitting on the opposite ends of the NFL spectrum, the St. Louis Rams fly north to Michigan to take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

The Rams come into 2012 fresh off a 2-14 season and are looking for a huge improvement in year one of the Jeff Fisher era as head coach. The team is led by quarterback Sam Bradford, who will need a comeback season of his own to avoid the word "bust" being thrown around St. Louis.

For Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the pendulum is far closer to MVP than bust. After a breakout 2011 campaign that saw the former Georgia Bulldog throw for over 5,000 yards, hopes are high for a deep playoff run this season.

Regardless, Week 1 is a fresh start for both sides. With that in mind, here's at everything you need to know about Sunday's contest.

Where: Ford Field, Detroit

When: Sunday, Sept. 9, at 1 p.m. ET

Watch: Fox

Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket


Spread: Lions -7.5 (via Bovada)

Though the Lions come into Sunday's contest as one of the biggest favorites of Week 1, this should be a pretty easy cover.

The biggest questions with the Lions roster coming into this season are in the secondary and health. Considering that St. Louis had one of the most anemic passing attacks in the NFL last season and all the key players for Detroit are healthy, this is an on-paper rout.

Strange things have a tendency to happen Week 1, so don't rule the Rams out. But if you're playing the lines, take the odds and go with the favorites.

Over/Under: 45.5 (via Bovada)

This is probably the easiest over of the week.

Neither side has anything resembling a top-tier defense, meaning it should be all systems go for both offenses.

Lest people forget, Sam Bradford was the NFL's golden standard for young quarterbacks just 12 months ago. Unless getting hit repeatedly behind a shoddy offensive line has ruined him forever, he has the potential to have a comeback season in 2012.

Even if the Rams quarterback struggles, the Lions could be the league's highest-scoring team of Week 1.

If you're betting, it's fool's gold to take the under.

Rams Injury Report (via CBS Sports)

DT Michael Brockers, Ankle, Out

DT Matthew Conrath, Knee, Out

DT Darell Scott, Knee, Out

Lions Injury Report (via CBS Sports)

CB Chris Houston, Ankle, Doubtful

S Louis Delmas, Knee, Doubtful

Big Fantasy Plays

Rams: RB Steven Jackson

Pushing 30 years old and nearing 10,000 career rushing yards, Jackson has reached the point of his fantasy career at which he's that guy. The one that no one wants to take because he's wholly unspectacular and won't win you an individual week but will wind up in the top 10 at his position at the end of the year.

And with the Rams facing a Lions defense that gave up 5.0 yards per rushing attempt (30th in the NFL) last season, look for a steady dose of S-Jax on Sunday.

After going over the 100-yard mark just four times in 2011, Jackson should easily top that mark against Detroit. 

Predicted Stats: 23 carries, 121 YDS, 1 TD

Lions: WR Calvin Johnson

Considering Megatron was my first-ranked wide receiver of Week 1, it's little surprise I have him here as an impact player.

Johnson will spend most of his Sunday afternoon being covered by highly touted offseason signing Cortland Finnegan and should see his fair share of double-teams.

That's all par for the course for Megatron, who eviscerated a myriad of double-teams and bracket coverages last season, for 96 receptions, 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

After Johnson told the Detroit Free Press that he'd like to cross the 2,000-yard receiving barrier this season, look for the Lions superstar to get off to a huge start on Sunday.

Predicted Stats: 8 REC, 145 YDS, 2 TD

Key to Rams Win: Offensive-Line Play

After a 2011 season that saw Bradford get sacked 36 times and miss six games due to injury, it's paramount that the Rams offensive line improves this season.

On Sunday we'll get a good indication of whether the unit will do so, as St. Louis comes up against Ndamukong Suh and the Lions' ferocious pass rush.

For the Rams to have any shot at winning, they will need to give Bradford plenty of time in the pocket to pick apart a questionable Detroit secondary. If Bradford doesn't have time to throw, the Lions will be able to key on the run, rendering Jackson and the rushing attack ineffective.

If head coach Jeff Fisher has coached up the line to unexpected heights, the Rams could come out on top.

Key to Lions Win: QB Matthew Stafford

Though high powered and dangerous on offense, the Lions have shown a penchant for turning the ball over. The team's 23 giveaways last season ranked 15th in the NFL, and most of those turnovers came from Stafford's right arm.

Blessed with Jeff George-like velocity, Stafford often tries to throw the ball into minuscule pockets and to go deep when open check-down throws are available.

Sometimes that aggressiveness leads to spectacular success; other times, spectacular failure in the form of turnovers. Stafford's 16 picks tied for seventh most in the league in 2011, but it's his league-leading nine dropped mistakes (via Football Outsiders) that should concern the Lions most of all.

With Detroit coming in as heavy favorites, it's vital for Stafford to avoid any costly turnovers that swing the momentum the Rams' way.

Prediction

The Lions are an organization on the way up, while the Rams are still looking to claw out of the NFC West's basement.

Look for the talent disparity to be on full display on Sunday as the Lions' full force of offensive firepower comes out to play.

Predicted Final Score: Lions 34, Rams 17

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