The St. Louis Rams open the season against a Detroit Lions team that is likely to still be paying the price for offseason, off-field troubles from a few key players. Will that benefit the Rams, even slightly?
The St. Louis Rams open the season in Detroit, with a tough game against the resurgent Lions. Those Lions could be a little shorthanded that week thanks to a pair of imminent suspensions for offseason scofflaws Mikel Leshoure and Nick Fairley.
As Ian Rapoport pointed out, the Lions losing Leshoure and Fairley is hardly the same thing as losing Matthew Stafford or Calvin Johnson. Nevertheless, both are being counted on as major contributors in their second season. Fairley, after playing well in limited duty last season, should get the starting job next to Ndamukong Suh. Leshoure is needed to bolster an offense that lacked a run threat last season, thanks in part to his season-ending injury.
The Lions proved time and time again last year that they could lean on their air attack to win games. If the Rams much-hyped defensive line and rebuilt secondary are going strong out of the gate, they could give Detroit some problems.
Week 1 will also be the first big test, the first real test period, for a Rams offensive line that has many wondering. Detroit's front four presents a tough matchup. Barring unforeseen circumstances, or a preseason stomping incident, Suh will give the Rams interior line a real challenge. Any defensive tackle playing next to Suh has an advantage, but Fairley adds another pass rusher for them to deal with.
Of course, more than the potentially suspended players, the thing to keep an eye on ahead of this game is the appearance of Jim Schwartz running an undisciplined team, something driven home by the incidents with Titus Young and Suh's on-field control issues. The Lions' penalty issues cost them last year. If they don't get those ironed out now, it might provide the Rams with just the opportunity they need.