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Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys divisional playoff preview: Here come the Cowboys

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The Rams know what’s coming. Can they stop it?

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed a resurgence over the second half of the 2018 season, and have currently won 8 of their last 9 games. They are 8-2 since acquiring receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders in a trade back on October 23rd. Over that stretch the Cowboys’ most notable victories were a 13-10 victory against the New Orleans Saints, a pair of victories over the Philadelphia Eagles, and their 24-22 playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks. 3 of those 4 games were at home, and all of them were close games.

The Cowboys were a far better team at home this season than they were away from the Jerry Dome. At home they were 7-1, while struggling to a 3-5 record on the road. Since the Cooper trade though, the Cowboys have gone 3-2 on the road, with victories against the Philadelphia Eagles, as well against the struggling Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants. In that same stretch they lost by two touchdowns at Tennessee and by a score of 23-0 when they visited the Indianapolis Colts. Safe to say, the Cowboys aren’t at their best when they play playoff-level teams on the road.

At home the Dak Prescott completed 71.9% of his passes for an average 230.1 yards per game. On the road the Cowboys completed 63.7% of their passes for 212.1 yards per game. Behind their premier level ball carrier Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys actually gained 0.3 more yards per carry away from Dallas, but ran the ball 22% less, perhaps because they were trailing more often. The weather should be in the upper-mid 50s for the game on Saturday night, with no rain, so the weather’s impact will be minimal.

The Cowboys have a strong defense and a great group of linebackers that will be a real challenge for the Rams zone-run schemes. Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, and rookie Leighton Vander Esch can go sideline to sideline and do a wonderful job of closing in the flats. The Cowboys defense was able to hold the Saints’ scoring machine to a mere 10 points, and only game up more than 30 points once–to the New York Giants in Week 17. Overall they were ranked 6th in points allowed, and 7th in yards allowed. This should be cause for concern for the Rams, who have had mixed-results against the league’s better defenses; they faired well against the Minnesota Vikings, the Bosa-less Los Angeles Chargers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Seattle Seahawks, while struggling against the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, and Philadelphia Eagles.

At a glance, the Rams would benefit greatly if their defense can answer the bell and hold the Cowboys to a moderate score, because Jared Goff and the crew will have their work cut out for them on the other side of the ball. If the Rams can score a couple of early touchdowns and put pressure on Dak Prescott to keep up, they’ll be in great shape to advance. However, if Ezekiel Elliot is able to punish the Rams inconsistent run defense, this game will hang in the balance, and could lead to another playoff disappointment for the Rams. That may seem obvious, but obviously there have been moments when the Rams knew what was coming and haven’t been able to stop it this season. It’s time for the Rams talented defense to live up to their names, or it’s gonna be a long offseason.