Check out our NFL Best Bets in this week’s Fab Five:
Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions
When and Where: Sunday, Dec. 2, Ford Field, Detroit, Mich., 1 p.m. EST.
Coming off a well-deserved bye week and one of the most thrilling games in NFL history, the Los Angeles Rams begin their five-game sprint to overtake the New Orleans Saints for the top spot in the NFC on Sunday when they face the Detroit Lions.
The Rams enter this game with a one-half game lead over the Saints atop the conference at 10-1, but they must finish with a better record than New Orleans, which handed Los Angeles its only loss back in Week 9 at the Superdome.
Rams can wrap up NFC West with victory
Los Angeles gets back into the swing of things after its breathtaking 54-51 victory over Kansas City on Nov. 19 to cap Week 11. The Rams will clinch the NFC West title with a victory or a loss by the Seattle Seahawks to the San Francisco 49ers later Sunday afternoon.
Should Los Angeles clinch, it would mark the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history since a seven-year reign atop the NFC West from 1973-79.
While everyone ooohed and aaahed at the ridiculous offensive displays both teams produced, the Rams also showed they have playmakers on defense who can contribute to victories, something that emerged as a question mark after the loss to New Orleans.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald continued to terrorize opposing quarterbacks and has a league-high 14.5 sacks after recording two against Kansas City. That was his fifth multi-sack game of the season and fourth in the last five contests.
Second-year linebacker Samson Ebukam had the game of his life against the Chiefs, returning an interception 25 yards for a touchdown and a fumble 11 yards to paydirt after a sack by Donald. Adding to the good news is that starting cornerback Aqib Talib is set to return after missing the last eight games with an ankle injury, making the secondary whole for the first time since Week 3.
It takes a load of pressure off opposite cornerback Marcus Peters, whose gambling style proved hit or miss against the better teams in the league. Peters, though, did have a critical fourth-quarter interception against his former team that blunted a potential game-winning drive.
“I think he will just put everyone at ease,” safety John Johnson said about Talib’s return to the club’s official website. “He brings that swag to him, the knowledge of the game to him, and we came in with him, so it was kind of like we were missing something and him coming back will just be like a security blanket for us, I think.”
Offensively, Josh Reynolds showed he can be a replacement for Cooper Kupp, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Reynolds had six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown versus Kansas City as he seamlessly fit into the passing attack with fellow wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods.
“Gerald (Everett) and Josh stepped up big again,” quarterback Jared Goff said about the pair. “It seems like every time we need it someone does and those two were huge today. Just seeing their progression and the players that they are starting to become is really exciting.”
Goff needs 258 passing yards and three touchdown tosses to eclipse his career highs of 3,804 yards and 28 TD passes set last season.
Todd Gurley, who was limited to 12 carries for 55 yards against the Chiefs due to a sprained ankle suffered during the game, is expected to start. He cleared 1,000 yards for the third time in four seasons despite the limited touches, but his streak of scoring a touchdown ended at 10 games.
Short-handed Lions look to spring upset
Detroit (4-7) has lost four of its last five games and was all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race following a 23-16 loss at home to Chicago on Thanksgiving Day.
Playing without traded-away wide receiver Golden Tate, injured wideout Marvin Jones Jr. and starting running back Kerryon Johnson, the Lions failed to gain traction for much of the game against the rugged Bears defense.
Backup running back LeGarrette Blount had 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but Matthew Staffordthrew a costly pick-six as Eddie Jackson jumped a route on a pass intended for Michael Roberts and raced 41 yards for a tie-breaking touchdown with six minutes to play.
The Lions made the decision to put Jones, who had 35 catches for 508 yards while sharing the team lead with five touchdown receptions, on injured reserve this week, effectively ending his season.
The hope is Bruce Ellington, who has 12 catches for 80 yards in two games after he was cut by the Houston Texans, can continue his strong first impression and thrive in the spot created by Tate’s departure.
“That was a great situation, where there was a guy that had an opportunity,” coach Matt Patricia told the team’s official website. “We saw something that we thought we could use and saw a skillset we liked.
“Definitely a guy that has made the most of his opportunity and produced.”
Johnson, who leads the team with 641 rushing yards while averaging 5.4 yards per carry, was ruled out for a second straight game due to a knee injury.
Stafford is 159 yards shy of his eighth consecutive 3,000-yard season, but the lack of deep threats is forcing him to dink and dunk his way there. He has averaged 6.07 yards per attempt in his last four games, well off his season mark of 7.00 and career average of 7.2.
The Lions are:
- 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games vs. above-.500 teams.
- 0-4 ATS in their last four home games vs. teams with an above-.500 road record.
- 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games as underdogs between 3.5 and 10 points.
- The over is 5-2 in their last seven games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The over is 4-1 in their last five home games vs. the Rams.
- The over is 7-2 in their last nine home games vs. teams with an above-.500 road record.
The Rams are:
- 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 games following a bye week.
- The over is 8-1 in their last nine games after totaling 250 or more passing yards in the previous game.
- The over is 9-4 in their last 13 games.
- The over is 5-2 in their last seven games vs. the Lions