This week the Rams face what should be their toughest challenge yet against the Cowboys.
Dallas presents the most talent on both sides of the ball the Rams have seen this season, and the first winning record that they'll face.
Dallas enters the game offensively 16th in ppg (21.3), 19th in ypg (311), 18th in passing ypg (221.7), and 22nd in rush ypg (89.3). They've faced some tough defenses in the Giants, Broncos, and Cardinals. All are easily better than what the Rams have seen so far, but have managed to come out with the same record as the Rams.
At QB, Dak Prescott, brings mobility, good decision making, and ball security. Through 19 career games he's only turned the ball over 10 times (six interceptions and four fumbles). Not bad for a young QB who's thrown the ball 566 times and ran another 66 times. The low turnover total is the best in the league for QBs that played all 16 games last season, and all games this season (Tom Brady has three turnovers over that span but didn't play all 16 games last season). This Rams’ defense will really have to try to capitalize on opportunities.
In the Cowboys backfield it's no secret what they're working with. RB Ezekiel Elliott is already one of the top five rushers in the NFL. The Rams will have to play very disciplined in their gaps as well as rally to the ball.
Zeke is running behind what has been the best line in the NFL for at least the last four years. However, so far this season the Rams’ line has outperformed them. But again, it cannot be overlooked that Dallas has by far played against much tougher defenses than the Rams. This game will really be telling how good the Rams line has actually become.
The real matchup to watch will be WR Dez Bryant vs Rams CB Trumaine Johnson. This will be a good one. Two big bodies lined up one on one for three hours. In all honesty, my money is on Tru. That's not homer-ism but instead just watching Dez. Throughout his career he has routinely struggled when former Cowboys QB Tony Romo was not throwing him the ball. His struggles have continued. He wasn't healthy all of last year, but when he was he was very up and down. However, this year he's been mostly down.
Defensively, Dallas has truly been middle of the pack. Not just this year but the last couple of years. So far in 2017 they rank 13th in points allowed (20.7), 11th in yards allowed per game (315), 19th and pass yards allowed (227.3), and 13th in rush yards allowed (87.7).
The secondary hasn't been too stable this year. They've allowed some really big plays over the last two weeks. The 227.3 ypg allowed doesn't really tell the full story considering they faced a struggling Eli Manning pass attack that also did not have superstar WR Odell Beckham Jr. on the field. Rams QB Jared Goff should have his fourth game in a row of a successful day throwing the ball.
Rams RB Todd Gurley might struggle a bit more. The Cowboys have a ridiculously fast, smart, and physical linebacker core. They're legitimately one of the best in the game. Add in Gurley's comments after the Thursday night's victory against the 49ers to former Cowboy hall famer Michael Irvin, when he said on national television the Rams were going to whoop the Cowboys, and he might be a marked man. History has shown teams usually respond extremely well when called out. Ask Oakland how Washington repsonded to WR Amari Cooper's claim that he and fellow WR Michael Crabtree were going to both have 100 yards in that game. I fully expect an already excellent linebacker group to be a little more motivated.
This game has the potential to be a game of the week type of game. Another shootout would not be a shocker. But make no mistake about it, with the Rams’ defense struggling, beating this team will tell you more about the Rams than all of their first three games combined.
This Cowboy team is for real...