Aiming to repeat last season's surprise success the Detroit Lions face the rebuilding St. Louis Rams Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson combined as the most explosive passing tandem in the league last season. Stafford became just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to record 5,000 yards passing, and Johnson's 96 receptions for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns earned him an eight-year contract that could be worth upwards of $132 million dollars.
What held the Lions back last season was the lack of a running game, and a poor defense that gave up 24.2 points per game and 128.1 rushing yards per game.
Running back Jahvid Best, who was limited to only six games due to head injuries, still led the team in rushing with only 390 yards on 84 attempts and two touchdowns.
Best is currently listed on the physical-unable-to-perform list, so running back Kevin Smith will start Sunday.
If Smith struggles the Lions will once again focus on the passing game, but the Rams proved to have a strong secondary last season despite their 2-14 record. St. Louis ranked seventh in the NFL allowing just 206.3 passing yards per game in 2011.
The Rams added to their prominent secondary, by signing cornerback Cortland Finnegan from the Tennessee Titans in the offseason.
That signing was part of new head coach Jeff Fischer's complete revamp. St. Louis turned over 60 percent of their team from last year.
Quarterback Sam Bradford returns after a disappointing season when he played only 10 games and threw for just six touchdowns, and running back Stephen Jackson also returns after a posting his seventh consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season.
The contest begins at 1pm eastern time and will be on Fox or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Detroit is favored by 9 points.
Prediction: Bradford could find his groove against the Lions poor secondary, and the Rams are an excellent test to see if Stafford and Johnson and duplicate their explosive performance from a year ago. However, if St. Louis can grind the game out with Jackson on the ground, they could limit the Detroit offense's time on the field.
Predicted Score: Detroit 35, St. Louis 24