The St. Louis Rams are less than 24 hours from starting off the Jeff Fisher era. Opening in Detroit against the suddenly powerful Lions is not exactly an easy way to start the year, but anything can happen in the NFL, especially on the first weekend of the season.
My five keys to the game after the jump.
1. Close Early - I mentioned this on Friday, but if the Rams can keep the score tight through the first half, it keeps Steven Jackson and the running game in play for them. Detroit's defense features an agressive front four attack susceptible to the run.
2. Crowd Control - Ford Field is going to be loud as hell on Sunday. The Rams, especially the offensive line, will need to stay focused to keep from incurring needless penalties, pushing the Rams backward and setting up perfect pass rushing opportunities for their defense. As Chris Long noted, the best thing the Rams could do is take the crowd out of it.
3. Control The Big Play - Detroit's offense lives on the big play, with Calvin Johnson and speedster Titus Young. The corners can throw off the timing of the offense by playing those guys physically and keeping the field short.
4. Win The Turnover Battle - Chicago obliterated Detroit last year by capitalizing on turnovers. Throwing the Lions offense out of sync will help with that. So will the work of players like Janoris Jenkins and Robert Quinn, who have shown a knack of getting their hands on the ball while still managing to make hits and tackle. On the flip side, Matthew Stafford and his offense can score nearly at will. Any extra opportunities to do so will bury the Rams quickly.
5. Special Teams - Special teams play is sort of a redheaded stepchild in the blogosphere, getting overlooked in favor of the obvious. Detroit was one of the league's worst on special teams last year. Football Outsiders ranked them 29th for 2011. For a team that's as overmatched as the Rams are here, on paper anyway, success in all facets of special teams is one of a few ways they can gain an advantage.
Here's Patty's preview and keys to the game over at the Pigskin Arch.