The St. Louis Rams and the Detroit Lions are connected in multiple ways going into their Week 1 matchup Sunday afternoon, and most of them are related directly to how terrible they were in the second half of the aughts. In 2009 the Lions would have selected Sam Bradford, but he stayed in school; they took Matthew Stafford instead In 2010 they took Ndamukong Suh, the draft's defensive superstar, right behind the Rams' pick of Bradford.
In 2011, things diverged--Matthew Stafford, who spent his first few years dodging injuries and ineffectiveness, erupted into a 5000-yard season, and the Lions scored 474 points after scoring fewer than 300 in his first. Bradford, meanwhile, who'd had a superficially impressive rookie season, got hurt and revealed that hot start to be more about racking up counting statistics than playing an efficient quarterback.
In year three, then, Bradford finds himself about where Stafford did a year ago; he's still the team's quarterback-of-the-present, but it's hard to get too excited by the prospect. With his status as the face of the franchise in doubt, he won't have to quite reach Stafford-ian heights in 2012, but he will have to have the same kind of undeniably solid return to favor. And he and the St. Louis Rams will start this pivotal season off, of course, against Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.
For more updates on Sunday's Rams vs. Lions game, and up-to-the-minute score, fantasy, and injury updates, stay tuned to SB Nation St. Louis's Rams-Lions storystream.