After all, the Rams finished 1-15 a year ago and start a rookie quarterback, No. 1 pick Sam Bradford, in Sunday's contest at Ford Field. Easy win, right?
Unfortunately, while the Lions continue to reach for mediocrity like an infant reaches for its mobile, the Rams are already looking to move beyond it. They've posted two wins against Detroit's goose egg, and are holding opponents to just 13 points per game -- good enough for fourth best in the league. In their last two match-ups (Washington and Seattle), they've won by at least two touchdowns.
Their gullible, tenderfooted, wet-behind-the-ears rookie? He's leading the revival, having already tossed six touchdown passes. His 72.3 quarterback rating is 12th among starting quarterbacks.
Bradford is earning quick praise across the league, and his skill isn't lost on Lions' defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.
"To me, he looks like an old-school quarterback, you know, some of the guys I grew up with in the league," said Cunningham, who has been around the league for decades. "I went back to my line coaching days when those guys were the pot of gold at the end of the first or second or third down. That's the guy you wanted to get. So I watched his footwork, his arm, his delivery, his awareness of things and I'm really amazed. He's a sharp young man. I haven't seen many like that."
Not bad for a kid who suffered who many thought might be a career-ending injury his junior season at Oklahoma. Prior to his injury, Bradford was going to be one of the top three quarterbacks in last year's NFL draft, along with Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford. Detroit had scouted Bradford prior to his decision to return to Oklahoma, but his absence gave them an extended look at Stafford, whom the team quickly fell in love with.
"(Stafford) has probably more of a free-wheeling, ‘I'm going to get you with a bullet at 60 yards,' where Sam right now is very playbook oriented at quarterback," said Cunningham. "He's doing exactly what the coaches ask him to do. Whenever he gets pressure, he dumps the ball very quickly and that has a lot to do with the type of offense he's playing in.
"We've got our work cut out with him."
Lions coach Jim Schwartz, meanwhile, wasn't looking at the Rams under any stereotype other than their record.
"This isn't a situation that is anything other than a 2-2 football team facing a 0-4 football team," he said on Friday. "We're at home and we need to get on the right track and we need to get on a roll. We'd look at this game the same as we would look if we were playing any other team. They had some outstanding players and they've played well even when they've lost. They've been in the games and they've been close. We're going to treat it the same as we treat any other week.""
Lions Continue To Wait on Stafford
Matthew Stafford will miss his fourth consecutive game with a shoulder injury, while his reserve, Shaun Hill, continus to accrue experience with Detroit's first unit. Stafford (shoulder) continues to participate at practice, but not with the ball club, performing light throwing drills with the team's training staff. It's assumed that Detroit will wait until the team's bye (in two weeks) before bringing the second-year player back under center.
"Obviously we're going to get feedback from him of where he is and things like that," said Schwartz on Thursday. "I don't want to go into exactly each step along the way that he does, but he's back to throwing. Each time, he'll do a little bit more, and I'm just going to leave it at that."
The Detroit Lions gambled on former Denver cornerback Alphonso Smith just prior to the regular season. And the second-year defensive back has made Martin Mayhew and co. look good as a result.
Smith picked off an Aaron Rodgers pass late in Sunday's loss to Green Bay, skying for the interception and giving the team another opportunity to score.
He is likely going to start Sunday opposite veteran Chris Houston, replacing the incumbent but ineffective Jonathan Wade in the line-up. "I really like the play he made last week. I mean, it was a magnificent play," said Cunningham. "I don't know if anyone was at the game, but I think I almost had a heart attack when he went up and what's great about it, that's what we've been trying to teach: fight for the ball, finish on the ball.
"The confidence level of those guys is rising and they have ability. We've challenged them pretty hard – especially me – everyday; you don't want to hear all the things I've said. They are really fighting and they're coming along. Hopefully they will get better in the next couple of weeks."
Scheffler Remains Questionable
Tony Scheffler practiced on Friday. But will he play on Sunday? That remains to be seen. Scheffler had missed practice recently with a concussion dating back to Sunday's game against Green Bay. Schwartz was hopeful the team would welcome his return this weekend.
"Yeah, he passed his stuff to get back on the field today, after that, there's still a long time ‘til Sunday," said Schwartz. "Things can go really well or can get derailed, so we'll wait and see."
Complete Injury Report
LB DeAndre Levy (groin/ankle) and QB Matthew Stafford (right shoulder) did not practice Friday, and are out for Sunday. RB Aaron Brown (finger) is doubtful. RB Jahvid Best and S C.C. Brown (quadriceps) are questionable, WR Nate Burleson (ankle), S Louis Delmas (groin), DT Sammie Hill (knee) are probable.