Dallas Cowboys vs Los Angeles Rams

In this first of two NFL Playoff NFC Divisional Round battles, Dak Prescott and his NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys follow up their Wild Card Weekend defeat of the Seattle Seahawks with a trip west to take on the well-rested, second-seeded NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams, led by Jared Goff, all happening at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, January 12 at 7:15 pm, broadcasted on FOX.

The 10-6 (1-0) Dallas Cowboys:

After winning their last seven of eight regular season games, the 10-6 (1-0) Dallas Cowboys shocked Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks with a two-point Wild Card Weekend defeat, 24-22, proving they deserve to be taken seriously for this 2019 Super Bowl run.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed 66.7 percent of his throws against the Seahawks’ 17th ranked pass defense, going 22-for-33 for 226 yards and a touchdown with one interception.

Dallas was 3-5 on the road during the regular season, but all three of those wins came in the second half of the regular season, and they were 9-3 versus NFC opponents, so this Texas team is prepared to shock the world and take down the favored Rams.

The 13-3 Los Angeles Rams:

The NFC second-seeded 13-3 Los Angeles Rams took some much-needed rest during Wild Card Weekend after losing two out of their last four regular season games, though both of those victors (Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles) are now in the playoffs.

Rams have a top-five quarterback in Jared Goff, who threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and ranked fourth among his peers during the regular season.

The Rams have dominated at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2018, going 7-1 there, and after going 9-3 against NFC opponents, they’re hoping their much better offense makes up for their weaker defense in this matchup and they come out a hometown winner.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 33 times (including 8 postseason games), with Los Angeles winning 16 games and Dallas winning 17 games. The Cowboys have won 3 of the last 5 meetings, but lost their most recent one last season in October, the score Dallas 30, Los Angeles 35.

Whoever wins this matchup will go on to the Conference Championships.

They’ll play the winner of the other NFC Divisional Round matchup, either the sixth seeded 9-7 (2-0) Philadelphia Eagles or the number one seed, the 13-3 (1-0) New Orleans Saints on Sunday, January 20 at either 2:05 pm or 5:40 pm.

And of course, whichever team loses this one goes home, their 2018 season finally over.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Playoffs Divisional Round Cowboys-Rams matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Cowboys and the Rams and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Cowboys offense ranked 22nd in the NFL

On average, Dallas’s offense puts 21.2 points on the board and moves the ball 343.8 yards per game, scoring 36 total touchdowns during the regular season.

Prescott is ranked 15th among his quarterbacking peers, having thrown for 3,885 yards and 22 touchdowns with 8 interceptions.

Mid-season pickup Amari Cooper continues to produce for the Cowboys, catching 7 balls against the Seahawks for 106 yards, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

Cowboys’ rushing attack ranked 10th overall

Ranked the best regular season runner in the league, Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball 304 times for 1,434 yards and 6 touchdowns, and caught 77 passes for 567 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Against the Seahawks, Elliott ran the ball 26 times for 137 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, plus he caught four balls for 32 yards.

Dallas offensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Playoffs Divisional Round: guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (ankle) and wide receiver Cole Beasley (ankle).

Wide receiver Allen Hurns has undergone surgery to repair the ankle that was grotesquely “snapped like a wishbone” during the Wild Card Weekend game.

The 2018 Rams offense ranked 2nd overall

The Rams average 32.9 points and they move the ball a total of 421.1 yards per game, both 2nd highest in the league during the regular season.

Goff’s passing attack is ranked 5th overall, averaging 281 yards in the air per game.

Two of Goff’s main targets have been wide receivers Robert Woods (86 catches, 1,219 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Brandin Cooks (80 catches, 1,204 yards, 5 touchdowns).

Los Angeles’s run game 3rd in the league

Fortunately for bruised running back Todd Gurley (see below), the second-seeded Rams were able to take Wild Card Weekend off, so there’s been plenty of time to rest his banged-up knee.

During the regular season, Gurley was the top three rusher with 256 carries for 1,251 yards and the most touchdowns by a running back with 17.  

Los Angeles offensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Playoffs Divisional Round: running back Todd Gurley (knee) went through a walk-through on Sunday and is expected to return to practice on Tuesday.

Cowboys Defense ranks 7th in the league

Opponents of the Cowboys average 20.2 points and move the ball 329.2 yards per game against Dallas’ fifth ranked rush defense and 13th ranked pass defense.

The Cowboys’ nine regular season interceptions were tied for 26th most in the league, while their 39 sacks put them tied for 16th.

Cowboys Defensive Players to watch:

Look for the outside linebacker wearing the high-collar neck brace – that’s Leighton Vander Esch, who already has 10 combined postseason tackles.

Lots of postseason tackling happening by the Cowboys so far – middle linebacker Jaylon Smith had 7, and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence both had 6.

Defensive tackle Maliek Collins had a big sack against the Seahawks last week, along with 4 combined tackles.

Cowboys defensive injuries

Listed as questionable for Playoffs Divisional Round: safety Darian Thompson (groin) and defensive tackle David Irving (ankle).

Rams Defense is 19th overall

It’s a good thing the Rams’ offense can score, because their defense allows opponents to put an average of 24 points on the board and move the ball 358.6 yards per game, their rush defense ranked 23rd and their passing defense ranked 14th.

The Rams are tied for third most regular season interceptions with 18 and their 41 sacks are 15th most in the league.

Rams Defensive Players to watch:

The two best 2018 regular season tacklers on the Rams are inside linebacker Cory Littleton, who had 125 of them, and strong safety John Johnson, who had 119.

If you’re in the mood to watch a sack or three, keep your eyes on Rams’ defensive end Aaron Donald, who some argue is the best all-around defensive player in the NFL,  and who had 20.5 sacks in the regular season, the most in the NFL.

The aforementioned tackling safety Johnson is also tied for seventh most interceptions in 2018 with 4.

Rams Defensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Playoffs Divisional Round: safety Lamarcus Joyner (ankle).

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Dallas’s punter, Chris Jones, has been in the league and with the Cowboys since 2011, and in the regular season he punted 60 times for a net average of 39.6 yards per punt, ranked 19th in the league.

During the postseason, Jones has punted 5 times for a net average of 40.6 yards per punt, ranked 4th.

L.A.’s veteran All-Pro punter, Johnny Hekker, was First-team All-Pro last season and punted 43 times this regular season but for a net average of 43.0 yards per punt, ranked 2nd in the NFL.

Placekickers:

Dallas’s placekicker, Brett Maher, was 29-for-36 in the regular season, his longest a 62-yarder in Week 14 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the longest field goal in Cowboys’ history.

Maher missed one extra point attempt (32/33).

In the postseason, Maher is 1-for-2, his longest a 39-yarder, and he is 3/3 in extra point attempts.

L.A.’s placekicker, Greg Zuerlin, was First-team All-Pro last season but due to a groin injury, he missed five games this season.

Zuerlin is now back in the lineup, and in the regular season he was 27-for-31, his longest a 56-yarder.

Zuerlin missed one extra point attempt (35/36).

Punt Returners:

Dallas’s punt returner, wide receiver Cole Beasley, was ranked 57th in the league in return average for the 2018 season.

Beasley returned 11 punts for 61 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per return, his longest for 14 yards.

In the postseason, Beasley has returned 1 punt for 7 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 7.0 yards per return, his longest for 7 yards.

L.A.’s punt returner, wide receiver JoJo Natson, was ranked 19th in the league in return average this regular season.

Natson returned 26 punts for 280 yards, averaging 10.8 yards per return, his longest for 60 yards.

Cowboys–Rams prediction and odds

The odds makers have the Rams favored over the Cowboys by 7 with an over/under of 49.0.

CBSSports.com has this final score prediction:

Will Brinson goes with the underdog and the under and has it Cowboys 21, Rams 18

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