Breakout Live breaks down the pluses and minuses of the Cowboys and Rams heading into their showdown in the divisional playoff round.
+ What Dallas does best is what the Rams do worst, and that’s stopping the run. The Cowboys offense goes through Zeke who averages a healthy 4.7 ypc per tote. The Rams, on the other hand, give up the worst ypc in the league at 5.1, setting up for a 30+ touch Sunday for the man who likes to be fed. The Cowboys defense stifled Russell Wilson and completely took away their ground game just as it did to the Saints in the regular season. Amari Cooper is enough on the outside to keep the defense honest, and Dak is always a threat to take off and run with it. Dallas sports the 5th ranked run defense which could force the game upon a jittery Jared Goff, who struggled over the final weeks of the season and has to run from sack master DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys know their rival Eagles went to the Coliseum and came away with a win in Week 16, and with their superior defense, can walk away with the upset.
– America’s Team prefers Jerry World and its 100k fans to the road, where they were sub .500 at 3-5. In the Cowboys last meaningful road game, they were shellacked 23-0 by the Colts. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett will be coaching in just his 5th playoff game in his 9th year on the job, where he’s a lackluster 2-2 and has never won a playoff game on the road. The Cowboys as a franchise are 0-7 in road playoff games since 1993. Dak was sacked 56 times, good for 2nd most in the league, and the NFL’s sack leader Aaron Donald gets his turn next. With Dak and Zeke getting their first ever playoff win, and Jerry Jones reaction, it feels a lot like Dallas believes they’ve already won their Super Bowl. While there may not be any pressure on the Cowboys, I’m not sure they have the hunger and right mentality they need to go into Los Angeles on a big stage and beat a Sean McVay-coached team on the road.
Los Angeles Rams
+ The Rams haven’t won a playoff game since 2004, but they bring the the smartest guy in the room in Sean McVay into their Saturday matchup against the intellectually over-matched Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys. Todd Gurley figures to be back in what might prove to be a game of biggest chips on their shoulder. Gurley lost the rushing title to Elliott due to injury, and his potential return and desire to show the nation he’s the best in the game at his position is an intangible in the Rams favor. In that same vein, Wade Phillips was fired by Jerry Jones in 2010 as head coach, so there’s nothing more Wade would enjoy than shutting down Elliott and the Cowboys offense. An extra week to prepare for the brilliant McVay and the vengeful Phillips is a spoil from earning the 2-seed. Oh, and who could forget the Rams possess the NFL sack leader in Aaron Donald, and that Dak gets sacked more than Jerry Jones used to sack his coaches.
– As the Rams try selling themselves to the apathetic Los Angeles market, they must feel the pressure of needing to win on Saturday to create any kind of buzz for themselves, especially after seeing the other Los Angeles team get a playoff win in Baltimore. That added pressure can cripple a team, especially one that bowed out with a horrific 13-point showing vs. Atlanta last season. Los Angeles doesn’t exactly come in feeling good about themselves after losing consecutive games to two playoff teams in Weeks 14 and 15. Jared Goff really struggled toward the end of the season and is a major question mark vs. the remaining top-flight defense in these playoffs. Todd Gurley isn’t a lock to play and C.J. Anderson may find things a lot tougher vs. the Great Wall of China front-7 the Cowboys bring to Hollywood, than he has against teams picking in the Top 5 in this April’s NFL Draft. Most of all, it’s McVay under pressure as he’s been spoken of as a god-like figure in coaching. A second straight poor playoff showing might flip that narrative.