Five things to watch: Lions at Rams

Detroit News
Matt Schoch |  Special to The Detroit News

Aliso Viejo, California — That’s right, a five things dateline.

There are so many things to watch for Sunday’s Detroit Lions game at the Los Angeles Rams that I got on a plane.

I’ll be there to witness the surreal visual of Matthew Stafford taking on the Lions, a spectacle I wrote about this week at PlayMichigan.

Just how good Stafford is and whether a team can ultimately win big with him created (still) endless, mind-numbing hours of sports radio filler in Detroit.

Answers will continue to unfold, but so far it’s a resounding “very, very good” and “yes.”

Here are five things to watch as the Lions visit the Rams (4:05 p.m., FOX/97.1):

►1. No. 9: All eyes will be on Stafford, who is two touchdown passes away from 300 in his career. The bigger tests will come down the road for Stafford to prove he was worth the haul the Rams gave up for him.

But with the emotional stakes built in Sunday’s matchup, this will be a somewhat significant hurdle for him to clear.

►2. Take Goff: The start to Jared Goff’s tenure with the Lions has been miserable. Maybe going home and playing against his former team rejuvenates him, giving him the quality outing that could turn things around.

Goff has talked about having a bit of a grudge on how his trade was handled. Well, he’s got a chance Sunday to do something about it.

►3. Brockers back: Don’t forget about Michael Brockers. Predictably, not having the best defensive lineman in the world net to him has slowed down Brockers’ production this season.

But Brockers said playing alongside Aaron Donald for years did wonders for his own career and approach.

Hopefully, he says, that drive rubs of on younger Detroit teammates. All nice words, for sure. But it would be nice to see some results from Brockers (or anyone) on the defense.

►4. Punt prodigy: Oh no, it’s Week 7 and we’re already calling the punter one of the things to watch. But there will be a little game within the game for Detroit punter Jack Fox and Johnny Hekker of the Rams.

When Hekker was punting for then-St. Louis, Fox was at an area high school, playing quarterback punter at kicker for his team, also called the Rams. Fox had an excellent season last year and has a better average this year, punting 51.5 yards per kick.

You can be sure he’ll be extra juiced to show off for Hekker, who also had a quarterback background and has been good for some fakes over the years. Maybe some trickery is in order Sunday for Fox to help the Lions stay close.

►5. So many points: As of Saturday afternoon, the consensus line was 16.5 points (in favor of the Rams, in case you were wondering). That’s somehow not the biggest spread of the week, as Houston is 18-point dogs at unbeaten Arizona, the biggest line of the year.

Underdogs covered the spread in 55.5% of games last season and they are just a tick under 55% this season. The numbers are a little worse for double-digit underdogs, who are 2-6 against the spread this season.

Also consider that the Lions have covered every other game this season and that pattern suggests they could cover on Sunday.

Matt Schoch covers sports betting for PlayMichigan.com.

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