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Previewing the Lions’ next opponent: Are the Rams a true contender?

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The Lions are inconsistent, but the Rams may be the most confusing team in the NFL.

NFL: Detroit Lions at St. Louis Rams Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions are confusing. In Week 4, they handed the awful Chicago Bears their first win of the season. The following week, they handed the soaring Philadelphia Eagles their first loss of the season. The Lions are 2-3 on the year, and just seven points away from being 0-5 and 14 points from 5-0.

This week, the Lions face a team that could be even more confusing.

Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

Schedule so far:

Week 1 - at 49ers - Lost, 0-28

Week 2 - vs. Seahawks - Won, 9-3

Week 3 - at Buccaneers - Won, 37-32

Week 4 - at Cardinals - Won, 17-13

Week 5 - Bills - Lost, 19-30

Reasons the Lions should be optimistic:

The Detroit Lions defense was awful in September, but if there’s a game for them to pull out of the slump, it’s this one. The Rams rank 31st in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, 28th in passer rating, 31st in yards per carry and dead-last in points per game. In other words, this offense is awful and even this Lions defense has a good shot at stopping them.

Additionally, while the Rams defense is good, the Lions offense just put up 21 points in one half against what many considered one of the best defenses in the league. Sure, Detroit slowed up in the second half against the Eagles, but they still scored more points against the Philly defense than any other team has managed.

Reasons the Lions should be pessimistic:

Aaron Donald is still on the Rams and is still as good as ever. To make matters worse, the Lions are going through an identity crisis at guard. Laken Tomlinson was essentially benched against the Eagles in favor of rookie Graham Glasgow. Though Tomlinson returned to the game and was named the starter against the Rams, Jim Caldwell has to be nervous about the upcoming matchup.

Additionally, though Todd Gurley has struggled mightily in 2016, he remains one of the more talented backs in the league. Detroit has given up over 100 yards rushing in each of the past four games, so this could be the week Gurley gets back on track.

Overall:

While, no, I don’t think the Rams are the real deal—their offense is just way too bad right now—I do think they present a challenging matchup for the Lions. Last year we saw the Rams hold the Jim Bob Cooter-led Lions offense to just 14 points. Additionally, the Rams struggling offense could really get going against a Lions defense that has struggled both at stopping the run and defending the pass.

That being said, the Rams will likely be severely shorthanded on defense. Their No. 1 cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, was carted off last week with a leg injury. Also, the Rams are beat up on the defensive line. Starters Robert Quinn (shoulder), William Hayes (ankle) and Michael Brockers (hip) all missed last week’s game against the Bills. Their statuses for this week are still unknown.

The Lions may not match up well against the Rams, but they may be catching them at the perfect time.