NFL Week 7 storylines: Goff returns to L.A. with plenty to prove

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (Lon Horwedel/AP)

You could call Sunday’s meeting between the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams a rare double-revenge game, but that doesn’t exactly feel accurate, does it?

After all, Matthew Stafford was the clear winner of March’s blockbuster trade that sent the longtime Lion west to sunny L.A. while Rams quarterback Jared Goff was unceremoniously packaged up with two first-round picks and a third-rounder bound for Detroit.

The two players are now forever linked because of this QB swap, and the comparisons are plentiful as we look ahead to this Sunday’s matchup between the 0-6 Lions and the 5-1 Rams. To compare their stat lines on the season only tells part of the story:

Stafford: 5-1, 16 touchdowns, four interceptions, 1,838 yards passing, 116.6 passer rating, averaging 9.2 yards per attempt.

Goff: 0-6, seven touchdowns, four interceptions, 1,505 yards passing, 86.9 passer rating, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt.

The Rams are clearly in win-now mode, hungry to win the Super Bowl at home with SoFi Stadium hosting the big game in February. The only thing separating them from a dominant, undefeated season so far is a defensive hiccup earlier against Arizona. Stafford is rich in offensive weapons, with new BFF Cooper Kupp catching everything and WR2 Robert Woods playing well enough to be most other teams’ top target.

Goff, meanwhile, is … well, he’s just rich. His weapons, on the other hand, are extremely limited after nearly every single one of the Lions’ offensive position players left in free agency as Detroit embarked on yet another rebuild.

The narrative here going into Week 7 is about Goff proving to his old coach that he’s still a strong starter in this league, but in reality we all know that doesn’t really matter — what does matter is his ability to prove the same to his own coach.

After head coach Dan Campbell’s emotional, tear-filled post-game press conference following Detroit’s heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings — one that echoed a similar defeat against the Baltimore Ravens two weeks prior — it felt like this team was due for a win. Few teams have played with more heart and grit than Detroit, after all, and Campbell’s emotion was refreshing and real. Instead, though, Detroit’s uninspiring Week 6 performance saw Goff dink and dunk his way through the game and put up just 11 points against the Cincinnati Bengals. The result was a different kind of emotion from Campbell:

The odds are literally stacked against the Lions — to the tune of a 15-point spread — but despite the stage being set for a blowout, anything can happen when emotions are involved.

Bengals-Ravens rivalry is back

Is there a hotter team than the Ravens right now? The Dallas Cowboys would surely like a word, as would Baltimore’s Week 7 opponent — and, currently, its biggest AFC North Division challenger on Sunday — the Bengals.

Considering the state of the franchise last season, and their series of off-season moves that prompted plenty of questions, few could have predicted that Joe Burrow and the Bengals would be in position to take the top spot in the AFC North by the end of October. Yet here they are, 4-2 and boasting one of the league’s most exciting passing duos, preparing to halt the Ravens’ momentum and take their place atop the division in Week 7’s only game featuring two teams with winning records. (Yes, really.)

The biggest spotlight will be fixed on — who else? — Lamar Jackson.

We know what Jackson is capable of when he’s at his best — just two weeks ago, we watched him pull off one of the wildest comebacks ever, racking up 442 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 140.5 against the Indianapolis Colts.

We also know what he’s like at his (relative) worst — last Sunday’s impressive beatdown against the equally-hot Los Chargers was his least impressive outing of the season, totalling just 167 yards and one passing TD with a pair of interceptions and a low (for him) 51 rushing yards. Yet still, Baltimore dominated L.A. to the tune of 34-6.

Another win for the Ravens would have them sitting comfortably atop the AFC. A loss not only makes things incredibly interesting in one of football’s toughest divisions but renews what has been a lopsided rivalry in the North.

Titans vs. Chiefs: Prepare for points!

Usually by Week 7, we can say with a decent amount of confidence that we’ve got a handle on what each team is all about. But when it comes to the Tennessee Titans? Yeah, they’ve been a little tougher to figure out.

The 2021-22 season has already been a bit of a rollercoaster ride in Nashville, their season-opener devolving into a humiliating outing against Arizona, and just when we thought they’d recovered they went and lost to the lowly New York Jets.

Monday’s big win over the Buffalo Bills, a down-to-the-wire affair high on offence and drama, feels like the team we all expected to see come firing out of the gates. Are these the real Titans?

If so, the Kansas City Chiefs could be in trouble.

This matchup is a dream for both offences, but on the flip-side a nightmare on defence considering each team’s strength happens to be the other’s most exploitable weakness. Both teams are pretty brutal at defending the pass — the Chiefs rank fifth worst league-wide, allowing opponents an average of 410.5 yards through the air while the Titans aren’t much better, at 384 per game. Kansas City’s biggest strength, as we know, is the passing game — Patrick Mahomes’ 308.5 yards per game is the league’s second-highest average, and he should have a field day considering the state of the Titans’ porous secondary that’s been hit with injuries.

As bad as the Chiefs are at defending through the air, that’s not the weakness we’ll be focused on this Sunday. It’s the Chiefs’ run defence, which ranks sixth-worst league-wide, going up against back-to-back NFL rushing king Derrick Henry.

Expect fireworks, and plenty of points. Hopefully you took the over on this one.

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