No. 2 Seed Los Angeles Rams Defend Their Home Turf Against No 4. Seed Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys (11-7) have a tough task on their hands, as they travel to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum to take on the Los Angeles Rams (13-3). The Cowboys are coming off of a close two-point Wild Card victory against the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams, on the other hand, are fresh from a first-round bye.
The last time these two teams faced off in the postseason was the 1985 NFC Divisional Round. The Rams won the matchup 20-0. Now, 33 years later, will the Cowboys rewrite history? Or, will the Rams move on to the NFC championship for the first time in 17 years? The Rams are seven-point favorites in the matchup.
As a result of the bye, Los Angeles is as healthy as they’ve been all season. Ethan Westbrooks remains the only player on their roster carrying an injury designation going into the matchup. While the loss of Cooper Kupp still hurts, this Rams team will be at full strength and ready to go.
In contrast, the Cowboys have a fair share of injury concerns. Wide receiver Allen Hurns suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in the history of American sports in the Cowboys 24-22 victory against Seattle. Dallas also has some notable names holding a questionable designation for the game, including offensive weapons Blake Jarwin and Cole Beasley. Dallas defensive lineman David Irving has been ruled out for the game entirely.
Keys To The Game
When preparing to face a team that has lost only three games in the regular season, all to playoff contenders, you need many things to go right for your team. So, what must go right for the Dallas Cowboys?
In order for Dallas to seal a win, it is vital that Dak Prescott doesn’t hold the ball for long. In the 2018 NFL Season, the Dallas Cowboys have allowed a miraculous 3.5 sacks per game. Only the Houston Texans allowed more per game (3.9).
While the Cowboys’ offensive line has always been fantastic at run-blocking, Prescott must be protected as a passer as this matchup approaches. While the Rams defense hasn’t been fantastic this season, there is no question that Dallas faces a tall task.
Aaron Donald, the NFL’s leader in sacks, is set on making Prescott’s life miserable all game. Additionally, diverting one’s attention only to Donald could lead to breakout performances from players, such as Ndamukong Suh. Look for Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott to be heavily involved as a pass catcher, giving Prescott a reliable check-down option all game.
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams haven’t won a playoff game since 2004. Luckily, this team has the power to change that. They’ll just need a few things to go their way to emerge victorious.
If the Rams want to advance, they will need to challenge the Dallas Cowboys’ top five rushing defense. The Dallas rush defense has been stellar for most of the season. However, Giants running back Saquon Barkley did rush for over 100 yards against the Cowboys just two weeks earlier. Why can’t Todd Gurley do the same?
In addition to committing to the run game, the Rams’ defense also needs to force turnovers. Ranking second in the league in takeaways per game throughout the regular season, the Rams must win the turnover differential battle against Dallas. The Rams’ defense goes from subpar to elite when they prevail in the turnover column. The Rams have eight turnovers in their three losses on the season.
What’s At Stake?
For two teams that are starved of a Super Bowl, this matchup means everything. The Los Angeles Rams haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 17 years. The Dallas Cowboys have a longer drought, as they are 23 years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance. A win on Sunday brings both teams one step closer to their ultimate goal: hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Featured image courtesy of World News Nest via Flickr
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