Rams look at big picture while focusing on Lions
The Los Angeles Rams return from a bye week to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field with a chance to wrap up their second consecutive NFC West title.
The bigger objective for the Rams (10-1) once they secure the division title is to try to take home-field advantage throughout the playoffs from the New Orleans Saints, who have the same record as the Rams but own the tie-breaker.
The Rams could have clinched the division last week with a Seattle loss, but the Seahawks topped the Carolina Panthers.
"As far as saying would I have been upset if Carolina won? No, I wouldn't say that," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "But the nice thing for us is, I think our guys have earned the right to say, 'Lot of respect for what Seattle has done.' They've done an excellent job winning two big games against the Packers and the Panthers the last handful of weeks. But if we take care of business this week, then that kind of takes care of itself."
McVay doesn't plan to take his foot off the gas.
"We've got to find a way to get better. Those good teams really do that," McVay said. "I think it's a credit to our players, to our coaches to be playing meaningful football this late in the season as you're going into your 12th game to have a chance to, you know, you win it then you end up getting the division title. That's certainly something we don't take for granted, but as long as we focus on that daily improvement, that daily excellence, then I think you naturally do kick it up a notch."
The Rams hope to get cornerback Aqib Talib back this week. He has missed eight games after suffering an ankle injury in Week 3.
"I know he's excited and just his presence for our team will be a big benefit to us -- having him out on the practice field," McVay said. "He's been around a lot and he's voted a captain by his guys and he's clearly one of the leaders on this football team based on the production and the experience and really, just the way he handles himself.
"So it's great to have him back out here and we're looking forward to seeing how he does this week."
The Lions (4-7) head down the home stretch looking for building blocks in a disappointing season.
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison is averaging better than five tackles a game since the Lions acquired him in an October trade from the New York Giants. He has 2.5 sacks in his first month in Detroit, tying a career high for a season he set in 2016, and his presence has had an undeniable impact on games as opposing coaches have had to adjust blocking schemes to account for his presence.
"He makes a difference," Lions safety Glover Quin said. "He's a big-time player in the middle, he's a big-time run-stopper. So when the offense knows that they have to block him a certain way or put a certain amount of guys on him, that frees it up for other guys to get in one-on-ones and different situations."
The Lions' already depleted offense took another hit this week when wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. went on injured reserve with a knee injury. Jones had a career-high 1,101 yards receiving last season and joined Golden Tate as one of just three sets of teammates to top 1,000 yards on the year.
"Going through these NFL seasons, guys go down for injury, guys go down for different reasons," Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "We make adjustments, we adjust to fit the players, and that's what we've kind of done with Marv. Marv's obviously a really good player and we'll move forward and give some opportunities to some other guys and see who makes the most out of them."
Lions All-Pro return man Jamal Agnew practiced Wednesday for the first time since he suffered a partially torn ligament in his left knee in a Week 5 win over the Green Bay Packers.
He said he hopes to play again this season, even if the Lions are eliminated from playoff contention.
"Obviously, back of my head I'm thinking longevity, protect myself," Agnew said. "But I'm feeling pretty great right now."
Updated November 29, 2018