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Week 7 Preview: Matthew Stafford feeling at home as Rams welcome Lions to SoFi Stadium

Maybe you bought his jersey. Perhaps your child looked up at him while getting an autograph at training camp. Hopefully, you witnessed the way he read to classrooms and led Los Angeles through some tough times and gave back to our communities.

We can debate the merits of Jared Goff's football performances. There were some incredible ones, even a perfect game. There were some deflating days, too. So it goes at the most scrutinized position in sports.

It's not for me to tell you how to feel about Goff's return to SoFi Stadium. Your emotions are dictated by your experiences, as are mine.

It would be disingenuous to start this week's column with any sentiment other than appreciation for what he did throughout five seasons with the Rams.

Not only did Goff contribute to one of the most successful stretches in franchise's history – 42 regular season wins, two division titles, and an NFC Championship – he represented the organization with class. And I suspect those in attendance on Sunday want to receive him in kind.

My hope is that he's treated to a warm welcome and a big ovation followed by a rude three hours courtesy of the Rams defense.

Fair?

Ramily Reunion

And it's not just Jared this week.

Michael Brockers was the first selection of Les Snead's tenure as general manager and helped establish a standard and a culture – especially along the defensive front – that carries through to this day with Aaron Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, position coach Eric Henderson, and the disposition of #DawgWork.

So there's immense gratitude for all that Brock poured into this organization. The same is true for new Lions general manager Brad Holmes, assistant general manager Ray Agnew, and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.

It will be great to see them and wish them well in every respect except the final score of Week 7.

Worth Every Penny (and Pick)

It will be years until the trade can be properly evaluated, so there's no sense in even broaching the subject of who "won" now.

But regardless of what happens on the Detroit side of the ledger in the future, here's one question I am prepared to answer: "Was acquiring Matthew Stafford worth it for the Rams?"

Absolutely, yes.

It's been said that Stafford's season won't really begin until the playoffs – that he's here to win championships, and unless that happens, the move will have failed.

I disagree.

As written in this space months ago, for the sake of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey and Andrew Whitworth, it was a calculated risk worth taking. And the returns through six games and five wins have validated the organization's thought process.

Whether the Rams reap the ultimate reward from their partnership with Stafford – that's for another day and is subject to a litany of external forces beyond their control.

But in making the trade, did they give themselves the best opportunity to maximize the prime years of this roster? No doubt. And for that, they have been and should be commended.

Ball Don't Lie

Their 2021 circumstances are extraordinarily different – they might as well be polar opposites. So I'm reluctant to make any comparisons between Goff and Stafford.

But if there was one area where the Rams absolutely had to improve at quarterback, it was ball security.

Sure, all Stafford's attributes are very much appreciated. We've talked at length about them this season and will touch on another one in the very next section. But let's drill down on the crux of the matter: valuing possessions.

Goff has made nine turnover worth plays this season, per PFF, and fumbled six times.

Stafford has five turnover worthy plays (I'd prefer to subtract one because his interception at the end of last week's first half was a no-risk-all-reward toss that he was more than willing to have picked) and only one fumble.

All other things being equal – and I'll underscore this point again: they're not – if this trend continues, Stafford's been a great return on investment.

Made You Look

On The Coach McVay Show, we spoke about Stafford's latest no-look throw that led to Cooper Kupp's seventh touchdown of 2021.

They're all the rage in the league these days, no-look tosses, whether you want to credit Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes for popularizing – even perfecting – the art.

What the Rams head coach likes is the way Stafford uses his eyes (and shoulders and footwork and arm slot) sensibly.

"It's always to influence the defense in a way that's positive for us offensively," McVay told us. "It's not just no-looking you to be cool."

It is pretty cool, though.

NFL Bingo

Stafford has defeated 25 NFL teams to this point, with seven others outstanding.

Coincidentally, the next three opponents are all on that short list: Detroit, Houston, and Tennessee.

Baltimore appears late in the 2021 schedule, as well.

In future years, he still needs to check off AFC foes Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo.

Wait a minute, Buffalo versus Los Angeles would make for quite a Super Bowl LVI…

Start Your Engines

The focal point for both teams this week has been starting faster.

The Rams have been held scoreless in the first quarter in three of their past four games – that defies logic for a unit rated third in the NFL in offensive efficiency.

As for the Lions, in their last four games combined, they've only mustered six first half points… total.

And at the risk of piling on, last week, Detroit was held to one net yard in the opening quarter by the Bengals. They've yet to play an offensive snap with a lead this season; trust me, we could go on, but there's no need.

Third Down & Out

Also monitor third downs this week.

The Lions are 29th in the league in conversion rate on offense.

Los Angeles had been superb on third down to begin the season. However, in their wins over Seattle and New York, the Rams went 4-of-21 combined on the money down. In the words of Kupp, that's "atrocious."

Slot Machine

The NFL's premier slot receiver, Kupp elaborated on those remarks this week on Rams Revealed.

He also paid tribute to his running mate, Robert Woods. Together, they've amassed 1,006 receiving yards this season, most by any NFL duo this season, per NFL Research.

But it's what Bobby Trees does when he doesn't have the ball that Kupp appreciates most.

"He is the most complete receiver in the game," Kupp declared.

Passing Grades

Four Rams on the defensive side of the ball earned career-best game grades from Pro Football Focus for their efforts in New York: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Taylor Rapp, Leonard Floyd, and Jonah Williams. At least three others earned season-high marks.

Was last week's dismantling of the Giants a reflection of the strides the Rams have made defensively or a biproduct of how depleted and deficient the Giants are on offense?

Yes.

Now go build off it.

And by the way, DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) accounts for an opponent's strength. And using that metric, the Rams catapulted from 14th to fourth in the NFL based off their performance in the Meadowlands.

Non-Offensive TDs

With ten takeaways, the Rams rank in the top five of the league, and it's only a matter of time before the defense scores.

That led me to examine how many NFL teams have yet to register a non-offensive touchdown this season. Turns out, the Rams are one of 14 such teams – so nearly half the league is still waiting for the ball to bounce their way.

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