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NFL Wild Card: Los Angeles Rams vs. Detroit Lions preview

The Lions host the Rams in Sunday night's Wild Card game as quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff face their former teams.

This game will be the first playoff game hosted by Ford Field since it opened in 2002, and it is the first time Stafford returns to the stadium since he was traded to the Rams for Goff on January 31, 2021.

The last time these teams played was in October 2021, when Stafford's Rams beat Goff's Lions 28-19. Detroit went 3-13 that season, but things look a lot different in the Motor City these days.

MatchupLos Angeles Rams @ Detroit Lions
WhereFord Field, Detroit, MI
When8 PM ET, Sunday, January 14
How to watchNBC
OddsDET Lions -3, LA Rams +140 ML

Read more: Wild Card weekend schedule, odds, how to watch

Injury Report

Los Angeles Rams: Joe Noteboom (foot), Jordan Fuller (ankle), and Troy Reeder (knee) did not practice on Wednesday. Kevin Dotson and Tyler Higbee were limited in practice, while Rob Havenstein did not practice due to rest.

Detroit Lions: Sam LaPorta (knee), Frank Ragnow (knee, back, toe), and Kalif Raymond (knee) did not practice on Wednesday. Jerry Jacobs was limited in practice and Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow did not practice due to rest.

Stafford returns for the first time

The Lions selected Matthew Stafford out of Georgia with the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford started from day one and hit his stride during the 2011 season, leading the Lions to a 10-6 record and their first winning season since 2000. He used that as a launching pad to end his time in Detroit as the franchise's all-time leading passer.

At his best, Stafford gave fans a sense of optimism after suffering the horror of watching the Lions win just two games between the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

Stafford played for three coaches in Detroit: Jim Schwartz, Jim Caldwell, and Matt Patricia. None of the three could get the best out of Stafford.

Dan Campbell, the coach hired in the same offseason during which Stafford was traded, is clearly getting the best out of Jared Goff.

Goff led the team to a 12-5 record this season - by far the best during his three campaigns in Detroit - and the Lions won their first NFC North title since 1993.

But Stafford and Rams coach Sean McVay won the NFL Championship just two seasons ago. While the rest of the team has changed since then, those two are still a lethal combination.

Young Rams defense faces big test

Just one defensive player over the age of 30 played for the Los Angeles Rams this season. That player is Aaron Donald, arguably the best defensive tackle of all time.

The Rams rebuilt their defense after going 5-12 in 2022, and the jury's still out on how good it actually is.

Los Angeles' offense jumped from 27th to eighth in the league in points per game from 2022 to 2023, but the defense only went from 21st to 19th in points allowed per game in that span.

The Rams' defense only had one shutdown performance this season, holding the Arizona Cardinals to nine points and causing two turnovers in a 26-9 Week 6 win. That game was one of the defense's two multi-turnover games; the other happened in a 20-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

McVay and Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will look like geniuses if things click into place defensively in the Wild Card round. If not, they'll have to rely on the offense to win a high-scoring contest.

Two top-ten offenses clash

The Rams and Lions were two of the nine teams to score more than 400 points this season, and the Lions became the second team in NFL history to have four players score at least 10 touchdowns.

David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta, and Amon-Ra St. Brown are the 10-TD scorers who headline the Lions attack, while running back Kyren Williams and receivers Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua are Stafford's top options.

The Rams scored 30 points or more in five games this season. The Lions did that nine times, and they surpassed 40 points on three occasions.

At 51.5, this game has the highest Total of any Wild Card round game, and for good reason. Both teams have gutsy, productive offenses and middle-of-the-pack defenses, which indicates that we'll see an entertaining game.

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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