The Los Angeles Rams return to the confines of SoFi Stadium after a two-week hiatus to take on America’s Team the Dallas Cowboys. This marks a crucial early test for both teams and one that will surely factor into the NFC playoff picture once the regular season ends.
Under Head Coach Sean McVay, LA holds a 3-1 record against the Cowboys, the most recent matchup resulting in a 20-17 win back in 2020. With uncertainty over who the Cowboys will be starting under center this Sunday, the Rams are listed as 4.5-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
With Dallas in no hurry to Rush Dak back into the lineup (yes I’m quite proud of that one), I spoke with David Halprin of SB Nation’s Cowboys blog Blogging the Boys to gain more insight into LA’s opposition this week.
Q - Backup quarterback Cooper Rush has led the Cowboys to a 3-0 with Dak Prescott in the lineup. Obviously there won’t be any QB in Big D as the job is his assuming he returns this week against the Rams. Prescott struggled mightily in the opener against the Bucs so what does he need to improve on before taking on LA?
A - It just really seemed like Dak had a bad game in the season opener. Sometimes quarterbacks are just off, and he was in that game. He didn’t play in preseason and he showed some rust. He wasn’t accurate with his throws and he was probably forcing things instead of just taking the easy pass against a talented Bucs defense. There wasn’t any one thing where you can just say that was the problem. He just struggled with his accuracy and decisions. It felt like just a bad game more than anything else.
Q - Mike McCarthy has faced a ton of criticism since taking over Dallas back in 2020, a lot of it justified if we’re being honest. How much credit does McCarthy deserve for manning the ship without Prescott and how confident are you in him potentially being the coach to lead them over the team’s Super Bowl hump?
A - I’m not one that is going to heap a lot of criticism on McCarthy. He played a season basically without Dak Prescott and struggled, then led the Cowboys to a 12-5 record the next year, winning the NFC East. The one thing he does deserve a lot of criticism for is the playoff loss to San Francisco. To me, that is the one big area where I felt he didn’t do his job very well. It’s possible he could lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl, but while I respect coaches and what they do, it always seems to come down to the players. I guess since he’s done it once with Green Bay, he could certainly do it again. He deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team together, and winning, in Prescott’s absence this season.
Q - The wide receiver room is looking much-improved with the return of Michael Gallup and the emergence of 2017 seventh round pick Noah Brown. This position group has been scrutinized following the abrupt trade of Amari Cooper this offseason. What do they need to build on following a promising performance against Washington and do you see the Cowboys addressing the position before the trade deadline?
A - I very much doubt they will do anything significant with the wide receiver room at the trade deadline. CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup are two top-shelf receivers in the NFL and Noah Brown is becoming a very competent third receiver. It just wouldn’t make a lot of sense to seek out a trade in that area. They really just need Gallup to settle in and regain confidence in his knee. His presence opens things up over the middle for Lamb where he did a lot of damage versus Washington. Without Gallup, they lacked a legitimate deep threat that forces safeties to stay deep and respect the vertical passing game. Now they have that, and it really opened up the middle. Also, Prescott loves using Dalton Schultz so expect his impact to increase once Prescott returns.
Q - Let’s talk about Micah Parsons. He’s as special as they come and he’s looking like a favorite for Defensive Player of the Year. What makes his game so unique and what do the Rams need to do to prevent him from wreaking havoc on their makeshift O-line?
A - Parsons just has everything you’d want in a defensive player. As a pass rusher, he has speed and power, and that’s a deadly combination. He can get around offensive tackles, or he can go through them. He has excellent body control and will throw a devastating spin move into the mix that gets home frequently. He has all the tools and he rarely misses the tackle when he gets there. You have to double-team/chip him, and you have to find him along the line because he will line up all over the place. An offensive line has to identify where he is on each play, and then slide protection in that direction. A quick passing game is another good way to neutralize his impact. Quarterbacks need to get the ball out quickly.
Q - DraftKings Sportsbook has the Rams listed as 4.5-point favorites with an O/U of 45.5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s game and how do the Cowboys pull off an upset?
A - This game is really hard to predict this early because we’re not entirely sure if Dak Prescott is going to play or not. My gut tells me he is not going to play this week, so they will go with Cooper Rush again. The Cowboys want to be able to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. If they can get those two going it makes everything easier for Rush. So that’s probably the most important thing, run the ball. And don’t let Aaron Donald wreck your game plan. Dallas has a very good defense, so they need to rely on them, run the ball, and have Rush remain error-free. I’ll be a homer here and take Dallas 23-21.