Following a bounce back win, the Dallas Cowboys host a well-rested Los Angeles Rams team looking to stay atop their division. Here’s what to watch for…
Will the real Dallas Cowboys please stand up?
Are you the team that limited to the Giants to just three points or gave up 42 to Denver? Are you the team that supposedly boasts the game’s best offensive line and running back? Is it possible that, instead, you are the team that’s currently 22nd in rushing yards per game?
The truth is that we still just do not know.
After three weeks, your guess is as good as mine as to how good the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can and will be. Here’s what we we do know, however.
We know that the Cowboys are facing some of the best defenses in the league, early in their season. Denver and Arizona are both in the top ten versus the run. This week’s opponent, the Los Angeles Rams are in the top ten versus the pass.
We know that the Cowboys are feeling their way through how teams are adjusting to playing them. It’s still a work in progress as opponents are clearly making this offense look very average. Could Monday’s night win over Arizona provide a spark? Anytime the new age triplets each score a touchdown, it’s a good sign.
We also know that the Cowboys defense is feeling their way but the initial signs are very positive. Dallas boasts the NFL sack leader in DeMarcus Lawrence and an up and coming secondary featuring three rookies.
So, what should you expect from the Dallas Cowboys as they face another tough defense in the Los Angeles Rams? Here are some things to what to watch for:
- Hopefully the Cowboys are still studying the tape from Week 2. Why? Well, the Denver Broncos happen to bring the blitz on almost 37% of their defensive snaps. The Rams do so on almost 40%.
Quarterback Dak Prescott and this offensive line must be prepared to face pressure on a consistent basis. The bad news for the Cowboys is that the Rams are an elite pass defense. Los Angeles is 10th in opposing passer rating, fifth in completion percentage allowed and tied for third in passing touchdowns allowed.
If Dallas is to have success on Sunday, they will need to prevail in the chess match between former head coach Wade Phillips and current offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
- In past years, opponents would only need to worry about the Rams defense as their offense was… well… offensive. This year, the Rams have started out like their old “Greatest Show on Turf” days. Quarterback Jared Goff is third in passer rating while running back Todd Gurley is fifth in yards.
To make things more difficult for the Dallas Cowboys, they have six defenders that are questionable for the game. Linebacker Sean Lee will be a long shot to play as is Anthony Hitchens. Cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie will also be game time decisions.
How this Dallas defense stands up to the threat of a suddenly potent Rams offense will go a long way towards whether or not they start out 3-1 or continue the win one, lose one trend.
- If the Cowboys are to get this rushing attack on track, the Rams defense may just be what they need to see. Somewhat surprisingly, Los Angeles currently owns the fifth worst rushing defense. To make matters worse for them, they haven’t really faced any elite rushers. They certainly have not had to stop anyone with the skill set of Ezekiel Elliott.
If the Cowboys can figure out their rushing offense and get Elliott on track, this game may be the one they look back at as the catalyst. Last week, Elliott had a few breakout runs and started to look like the Zeke we expect to see each week.
Dallas must be careful not to force feed Elliott but utilize him in the flow of the offense. The Cowboys offense was more effective last week because they did a good job employing play fakes to draw the offense to him. Doing more of that should open up some big runs later in the game.
The Cowboys 4-11 on short rest since Jason Garrett became head coach. This includes just one win in their last eight tries. To make matters worse, the Rams are coming off ten days of rest. For that reason alone, I believe this will be a lot closer of a game than you might expect.