Can Jeff Fisher land on the right foot and end his unpopular campaign of sub .500 seasons? This afternoon looks relatively unlikely as Detroit. who is building off its first postseason appearance since 1999 hosts Bradford and company in front of an expected sellout crowd at Ford Field. After going 2-14 and 6-10 following their winless 2008, the Lions finished 10-6 in 2011. A 45-28 wild-card loss to New Orleans was a tough way to end the year, but Detroit is finally enjoying some stability as it enters the fourth season with the same coaching staff in place.
Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson expect to remain one of the most prolific combinations in the league. Stafford, who hurt his non-throwing hand in Week 3 of the preseason, threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns last season after missing 13 games in 2010 with a right shoulder injury, while Johnson led the NFL with 1,681 receiving yards and hauled in 16 TDs. Johnson signed a deal in the offseason worth $132M over 8 years . However balance and efficiency will be key in the Lions receiving core as Stafford also has Nate Burlseon, Titus Young , Brandon Pettigrew and Ryan Broyles that makes this Lions offense all the more dangerous. Don't expect to see many running plays this afternoon as Jahvid Best will miss at least 6 games with concussion symptoms and Mikel Leshoure is sitting out the first two for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Detroit ranked 29th in the NFL last season with just over 95 rushing yards per game, so expect Kevin Smith and Kelland Williams to pick up some of the slack.
The Rams would like to see starting quarterback Sam Bradford under center for all 16 games after he missed six last season with a high left ankle sprain. After giving up a league-high 55 sacks last season, St. Louis made a move to bolster its offensive line by signing Pro Bowl center Scott Wells, who is returning from knee surgery. The Rams probably won't put up the same numbers as the Packers, but they can't get much worse after averaging a league-worst 12.1 points in 2011. Bradford, like Stafford a former No. 1 overall draft pick, could have the offense heading in the right direction after throwing five TDs with no interceptions in the preseason. Of course it never hurts to also have Steven Jackson who is targeting an eighth straight 1,000-yard season. The Lions weren't particularly strong against the run in 2011 - allowing 128.1 yards per game - but their front four led by Ndamukong Suh could be one of the strongest in the NFL.
Detroit also returns a solid group of linebackers, but the secondary remains a concern after the team's last two opponents last season threw for a combined 946 yards and nine TDs. Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley had a solid preseason and could make a major impact. The Detroit Lions should come out on top, by two touchdowns. As long as injuries don’t ruin the day and the second string shines as starters. The Rams shouldn’t slouch away though, because they are a few years back of where the Lions were when they rebuilt their team. This is just the first year of their turnaround. All of those stale jokes can be tossed out since both teams will play tough and continue to play tougher in future years.