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Rams vs. Lions Wild Card Game Betting Preview: Goff Gets Help To Outduel Stafford

Jared Goff Detroit Lions v Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions at play against the Los Angeles Rams. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP

The sportsbooks have released their odds for the Wild Card game between the Rams and Lions, in which the big storyline is that Jared Goff, former Ram, duels with Matt Stafford, former Lion. But a lot more will come into play than just these two quarterbacks.

For your best bets, I will recommend investing in the Lions and the Rams team total “under.”

Picks Summary

  • Lions -3 (-120)
  • Rams Team Total Under 23.5 (-105)

*All odds from Bet365 (check our Bet365 Review)


Los Angeles Rams vs. Detroit Lions

Sunday, January 14, 2024 – 08:15 PM ET at Ford Field


Overrated Rams

The Rams are getting too much respect for their late-season turnaround. While they started winning more games, the reality is that they benefited from facing softer competition – whereas they faced a lot of playoff teams in the first half of the season, they got to face a lot of weak competition in the second half.

It is still true that they’ve improved, but it is not true that they have become a group that should scare other playoff teams. Over the course of the year, they are 1-6 against playoff teams, not counting their win over San Francisco’s backups in Week 18.

The one win came against Cleveland in quarterback Joe Flacco’s first game back from oblivion, his first game with the Browns. In their six losses, they lost by a combined total of 69 points, with each loss coming by six points or more.

Conversely, the Lions won in Kansas City, Green Bay and Tampa Bay, and were a referee crew away from winning in Dallas. The Rams are not ready to beat playoff-caliber teams, whereas the Lions are. This seems especially true lately: they inched past the lowly Giants thanks to a missed field goal from the Giants before taking last week off.

Kyren Williams

This is not to say that there appear to be likable things about the Rams. Their emergence coincides with the ascent of running back Kyren Williams, who is in all fairness a good running back.

The problem is that Detroit is too tough at stopping the run. Williams faced one top-three rush defense, San Francisco’s, and mustered 52 rushing yards on 3.7 YPC. Detroit ranks second in rush defense.

The Lions have shut down opposing running backs all season. Kansas City’s Isiah Pacheco, for example, averaged 2.9 YPC against the Lions. Seattle’s Kenneth Walker III averaged 2.5 YPC against them.

When Kyren Williams failed to manage four or 4.1 YPC, his team’s offense generally failed to exceed 23 points, which bodes ill for L.A.’s chances of hitting its team total “over” against the Lions. In L.A.’s two lowest-scoring games, Williams averaged 3.8 YPC against the Bengals and the Rams scored 16 points, and he averaged 4.1 YPC against the Eagles, and the Rams scored 14 points.

Pressure

In the exceptions where the Rams still scored over 23 points while Williams struggled, the Rams were at home and/or benefited from a sack-free day for quarterback Matthew Stafford or from overtime. I like Detroit’s defense in this game because it will be able to place Stafford under pressure.

As the season has progressed, the Lions have become more creative with their blitzing, as especially evident in video footage of their win four weeks ago against Denver. But also more recently, the Lions rank tenth in the last three weeks in sack rate. They’ve benefited from not playing mobile quarterbacks – mobile quarterbacks kill their pass defense – they are losing to or struggling the most to beat teams like the Bears and Ravens who have mobile quarterbacks.

For example, they put Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott under significant pressure, sacking him three times – the team that ranks fifth in sacks per game averages three sacks per game – and forcing him into an interception. 

Trouble for Stafford

Pressure spells trouble for Stafford, who is anything but mobile and who will not elude Detroit’s pressure. Stafford ranks 20th in completion percentage under pressure, which is partly why he throws so many interceptable balls.

The Lions are intercepting the most passes per game in the last three weeks, so they are primed to pick off Stafford.

It is tempting to dislike Detroit’s pass defense because of the yards it gives up, but it is hard to sustain drives against the Lions because of the big plays – sacks and interceptions – that to an increasing extent they come up with. These big plays help explain why they are repeatedly holding opposing quarterbacks to below their season average in passer rating. Their red zone defense is also second-best at preventing touchdowns in the last three weeks.

The takeaway here is that yards don’t equal points. Bettors who play the Rams team total “over” will be bitter watching the Rams wrack up yards without scoring much.

Detroit’s Rush Attack

Another reason why the Rams won’t score much is that they won’t possess the ball much: Detroit will control the game with its rush attack – the Lions like to run a lot and, in doing so, to control the clock.

Both difficult running backs to bring down, Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery form a potent duo. Montgomery has exceeded 1,000 yards rushing and Gibbs amassed 945 rushing yards. Together, they help Detroit rank fifth in rushing yards.

The Eagles, Cardinals, 49ers, and Ravens – all top-eight rushing attacks – achieved 130 rushing yards or more against the Rams.

Jared Goff’s Outlook

But the most vulnerable component of L.A.’s defense might be its effort against the pass. Most recently the Rams have allowed strong quarterback performances from Washington’s backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, from New Orleans’ Derek Carr, and from the Giants’ Tyrod Taylor. Overall, they rank 20th against the pass.

Their sack rate looks good recently because every team dramatically improves their sack rate when they face the Giants – to whom they nevertheless allowed 25 points – but overall they rank toward the bottom at getting sacks.

Amon-Ra St. Brown consistently wracks up 100 or more receiving yards. Speedster Jameson Williams is also becoming a more consistent threat. Any number of other receivers, perhaps also tight end Sam LaPorta if he manages to play, contribute big plays.

Takeaway

The Lions will field a balanced offensive attack that will allow them to dominate possession, while their various weapons will get them in the end zone, especially at home where they average over 30 points per game.

The Rams will struggle to keep pace. Forced to be one-dimensional, L.A.’s pass attack will be susceptible to Detroit’s improved ability to accumulate sacks, interceptions, and red zone stops. L.A.’s season-long kicker problems will only make scoring harder.

NFL Pick: Lions -3 (-120) at Bet365

NFL Pick: Rams Team Total Under 23.5 (-105) at Bet365

*The line and/or odds referenced in this article might have changed since the content was published. For the latest information on line movements, visit OddsTrader’s free betting odds tool.

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