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Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys divisional playoff preview: Super Bowl or bust

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The expectations for the LA Rams have been elevated since March. Now it’s time to put them to the true test.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The buzz around the Los Angeles Rams home playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons last year was pretty upbeat. Yes, the loss was painful and disappointing, but having turned around a franchise that hadn’t had a winning season for 13 years with a Coach of the Year effort, no one was calling for the head of Sean McVay. There was a very low amount of panicky “we need to blow up the roster” from Rams Twitter. Rams fans knew that this team could be better than that first-round playoff loss.

They just needed another shot.

Having spent over a decade in the shadows of other NFL teams more relevant to national attention, here we are about to host the Dallas Cowboys.

Let’s be honest with the expectations for Sunday’s game vs. the Cowboys. If we lose, the heat will be turned up. It may not lead to any coaches being fired, but it will play a significant role in how this team fits into the LA sports landscape. This win could be a defining victory that the city could get behind. And having been on a path to this point since back in March, it’s a win that many are demanding.

The narrative for the Dallas Cowboys on the other hand was that they needed to beat the Seattle Seahawks for everyone to feel cool about trotting Jason “The Clapper” Garrett out again for his ninth season as the Cowboys’ head coach. That win was impressive and proved that this team can compete in the postseason.

So if the Cowboys lose to the Rams on the road, would that really be the end of the world for that team? For die-hard Cowboys fans over at Blogging the Boys, sure, but ESPN probably isn’t going to run any “what’s wrong with the Cowboys segments” in the offseason. Or not any more than they usually do.

But if McVay loses his second career playoff game, if QB Jared Goff ends his third professional season with an 0-2 record in the playoffs, the 2018 season will be framed as a bust that will have a pretty disgusting taste all throughout the offseason.

The Rams are on the upswing. We’re getting better every season. The expectation that it’s put up or shut up time — at least against a 10-6 team like the Cowboys — is pretty reasonable. The LA Rams are no longer untested in the postseason.

Any excuses for a loss have grown pretty thin.

This playoff matchup between the Rams and the Cowboys is the most important game so far in the Sean McVay era. So soak in the excitement this week, jerks.

After Saturday, everything changes.

For better or worse.