DETROIT (AP) -- Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams are rolling into the Motor City with the No. 1 pick in the draft getting rave reviews for helping them finally put their team on the rise.
The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, have left their fans wondering when last year's No. 1 pick, Matthew Stafford, will play again, and if there's any short-term hope for a franchise that can't seem to get it right.
St. Louis (2-2) has already surpassed last year's win total -- with the lone victory coming at Detroit -- and the Lions (0-4) are desperately hoping to earn a victory and end the comparison's to their miserable past.
Detroit, which had the NFL's first 0-16 season two years ago, is mired in a stretch of futility that includes the worst 44-game record (3-41) and 36-game mark (2-34) in league history.
Center Dominic Raiola said the Lions must win Sunday's game at home against St. Louis.
"We have to win this game," Raiola said. "We deserve to win this game because we've worked too hard and we've got too much talent.
"We're going to win this game and a few more games coming up here. The urgency is there because it has to happen, but it's going to be tough because St. Louis is an up-and-coming team."
Bradford deserves lots of credit for that.
The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, whose senior season at Oklahoma was stunted by a shoulder injury, has validated the faith St. Louis had in taking him instead of Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whom Detroit drafted No. 2 overall.
Bradford bounced back from a rocky debut, throwing three interceptions in a four-point loss to Arizona, by throwing just three interceptions over the next three games. He had a season-high 289 yards passing with two touchdowns in last week's 20-3 win against Seattle.
Like a savvy veteran, Bradford has deflected credit to teammates such as running back Steven Jackson. He had 70 yards rushing and 54 yards receiving last week, looking healthy after being slowed by a groin injury.
"Having a player like Steven, who can run the football effectively for us, there's no doubt that it makes my job easier," Bradford said.
The Rams' defense has helped Bradford, too, holding teams to just under two TDs per game with a strong pass rush from their front four. So Bradford doesn't face more pressure to make big plays.
The strength of Detroit's team without a doubt has been its defensive line, getting three sacks from Suh and relentless pressure from defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.
"Their front, I think, is as good as anybody's in the league," St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Stafford's right arm has been regarded as one of the stronger ones in the NFL, but he hasn't been healthy very much to show it. His separated right shoulder will hold him out for a fourth game Sunday after injuries forced him to miss six games last year as a rookie. Coach Jim Schwartz has refused to give a timetable for his return and Stafford has grown tired of talking about his latest injury.
Despite the setback of losing Stafford in Week 1, Detroit had a shot to win three of its four games -- losing by five, three and two points -- after its 14 losses last season were by at least a TD and several were embarrassing routs.
"I think we've played different the last four games than we have in previous years, even though our record doesn't account for it," said offensive tackle Jeff Backus, whose record is 33-115 as a pro since 2001. "I don't think we're the same-old Lions."
Spagnuolo agrees, saying he's concerned the Lions are about to break out after falling just short in closely contested games.
"From our standpoint, I think it is a very scary position to be in," he said.
Spagnuolo seems to be sending the right message to the Rams in case they think they've made it, closing in on winning three straight games for the first time since 2006.
"I don't feel like we've gotten over any hump to be quite honest with you," he insisted. "There's a mountain we're trying to climb, and we're still at the bottom of it quite honestly. We're just going to keep chipping away and try to get to the top, but we got a long way to go."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)