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NFC Wild Card Breakdown: Rams vs. Lions

“Battle of the Blockbuster”; Goff, Stafford look to advance with heavy implications looming.

Trading Places Part III

Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford square off Sunday Night in an intriguing playoff matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions. This will mark the second time overall and first in the playoffs, where these two will play against one another since they had their own rendition of “Trading Places” to transpire via a blockbuster trade in January 2021. In the initial bout after the trade, Stafford (334, 3 TD’s) was able to outplay Goff (268, 1 TD) while leading the Rams to a 28-19 victory at SoFi Stadium in Week 7 of the 2021 regular season. Goff struggled in his first year with Detroit while Stafford would go on to lead the Rams to a Lombardi Trophy on their home field that very same year.

Fast forward 2 seasons and my-oh-my, things are a bit different heading into the 2023-24 postseason. The Los Angeles Rams were able to exceed the expectations of many media pundits this year with strong efforts and production by two former 5th round NFL Draft picks, RB Kyren Williams(‘21) and Puka Nacua(‘22), who will probably win NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year. The team was able to maintain a level of competitiveness under the guidance of Head Coach Sean McVae and get into the playoffs, though it had some injuries, namely to Stafford and Cooper Kupp. In Detroit, the Lions were able to fulfill preseason hype and become division champs (NFC North)for the first time in 30 years behind creative play calling by OC Ben Johnson and aggressive leadership by Head Coach Dan Campbell. Their explosive offense was led by Goff’s strong play (4,575 yds, 30 TD’s), RB David Montgomery(1,132 Total Yds), dazzling rookie seasons by Jamyr Gibbs(1,261 Total Yds/) and TE Sam LaPorta and yet another stellar year by WR Amon-Ra St. Brown(Pro Bowl SNUB this year).

NFL: OCT 24 Lions at Rams
Which secondary will make key plays?
Photo by Icon Sportswire

Though both of these squads have explosive playmakers on the outside and substantial ground games, I’m more interested to see what defense (secondary in particular) steps up to get key stops in this one. It will be of great importance who puts more pressure on the aforementioned QB’s, with the Lions being led by young stud and former Michigan Wolverine, Pro Bowler Aiden Hutchinson (11.5 sacks) and the Rams still being blessed with the presence of ALL WORLD DT Aaron Donald up front. I believe there will be a lot of explosive plays in this matchup and that one of the defenses will have to force a pivotal turnover to secure or spearhead the victory. I’m betting on Aaron Glenn’s unit to be a bit more opportunistic and help lead Motown to its first playoff victory since the 1991-92 season.

My Prediction: Lions 31 - Rams 23