2019 NFC Divisional Playoff Game: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott will need to get to the second level of the Rams defense on Sunday night to help get the offense rolling. Photo Courtesy: Brook Ward

By Zach Walker

Did I believe the Cowboys were actually going to beat the Seahawks? Yes. Did I like the chances of the Cowboys storming into the Superdome and pulling another rabbit out of the hat? No. However, I DO like the matchups for this weekend. Every time the Eagles, led by Nick Foles, win late in the season, where it’s been said that the team is “more relaxed” with Foles, it makes the Eagles look very foolish and makes a drastic decision inch closer to having being made.

For the Cowboys versus the Rams, this is going to be a great game because of the matchups. The key to beating the Rams is simple yet as easy as filling a car with gas with a straw, containing Aaron Donald. That’s to say, it’s doable, but that’s some work. Donald is a monster, and is legitimately a league MVP candidate. Twenty and a half sacks, double that in quarterback hits, and bottomless pressures. Donald’s job is to routinely beat double-team blocks to put the pressure directly into the face of quarterbacks who made the mistake of holding onto the ball for as long as they did, because they’re getting tagged. The Rams defensive line is the game, defeat them and its move along to the next round. Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, Dante Fowler, and Ethan Westbrooks. That’s a problem. I’ll say this, the Cowboys went 3-1 against Washington and the Eagles, and though neither of those defensive fronts have Aaron Donald, those are two of the best defensive lines in the game going. The Rams have a pair of ‘Super Villains’ at cornerback, Aqib Talib (a yield-nothing cagy veteran) and Marcus Peters (my personal favorite corner in the NFL and a turnover vampire). The middle of the field, the Rams’ linebackers and safeties are supremely beatable, get Ezekiel Elliott to the second level and that’s where the Cowboys can get loose.

The Cowboys defense against the Rams’ offense is all about knowing where Todd Gurley is at all times during the game, and that’s where the dynamic duo of Jaylon “Headache-maker” Smith and Leighton “Wolfman” Vander Esch come into the fray. It’s amazing how strong they’ve come on as to make a fully dressed Sean Lee keep his helmet on and stuck on the sideline, that’s a luxury forged on the field for the Cowboys. The “Hotboyz” are going to have to dictate where Jared Goff goes with the football. The Cowboys have a lengthy injury report list as of Thursday at noon. Three wide receivers (Beasley, Austin, Noah Brown), three defensive linemen (Collins, Crawford, Irving), three offensive linemen (Martin, Tyron, Su’a-Filo) and finally Dak Prescott. So on the health front, not doing the best, but as they say it’s a game of attrition and to get to the next level they have to get beyond the injuries.

Micro Issue
There are a pair of extra factors in this game, one micro and one macro. The little factor being Dak Prescott going to the L.A. Coliseum, the place where Dak Prescott first showcased himself on the NFL stage, where he made his first NFL throws in anger in his first preseason game. Those thoughts might not even exist in Prescott’s head, but it’s pretty cool to think about, the place where it began for Prescott is the place where he’ll attempt to take the franchise further than it’s been in almost twenty-five years. Dak wasn’t even three years old yet, I wasn’t four, so for me personally, I actually can’t prove that this franchise can win this game, though I’m so ready to watch them play.

Macro Issue
The macro, is going to be visible in the stands of the L.A. Coliseum. The Cowboys have held training camp in Oxnard, California for a WHILE now, despite building a gigantic facility in Frisco, so that the Cowboys’ can have a strong handhold in the long-dormant Southern California market, and this game should show just how the Cowboys’ nickname (Of which can never be taken away or unearned, go get your own F***-ing nickname) of ‘America’s Team’ will show up in the stands, where the expectation is to be an almost 60/40 split of Rams to Cowboys’ fans.

Prediction
It’ll be a close contest. I’ve never been beyond this game, I’m nervous. SO READY.

Final Score
Cowboys 27 
Rams 24