Coming off of their second prime-time embarrassment of the season, the Rams (2-2) have a lot to prove to the NFL. The offense looked downright horrible against San Francisco, as quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 7 times and pressured on nearly half of his dropbacks on the night.
The o-line’s job does not get any easier this week, as Micah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys (3-1) have one of the best fronts in the NFL, so they will have their work cut out for them for a second consecutive week. If the Rams win, they will have a 3-2 record and will get that foul taste from Monday Nights loss out of their mouths. However, if they lose, they will fall to 2-3, losing their second straight ballgame and falling into an abyss of questions and concerns. Here are 3 reasons as to why each could happen:
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) COOPER RUSH MAGIC RUNS OUT
Now, this one has much more to do with the Cowboys than it does with the Rams. Nonetheless, this will be one of the main reasons that Los Angeles will come out on top Sunday afternoon. Dallas’ back-up quarterback Cooper Rush has been playing out of his mind as of late, leading the Cowboys to three consecutive victories while completing 60.8% of his passes with 737 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The most glaring statistic for Rush is that he has yet to throw an interception, playing seemingly mistake-free football throughout his 3 starts this season. Now, Cooper Rush is a back-up for a reason, and we see this early success for back-ups time and time again in the NFL. Then, almost like clockwork, they come crashing down to earth and show exactly why they are not a starting quarterback in this league.
Rush has yet to come across true adversity, something that often separates the good from the average at the quarterback position. If the Rams can make Rush uncomfortable, confuse him, and force some turnovers early, they can win this game in dominant fashion. When the Rams win, expect Cooper Rush to play his first turnover-laden game.
2) RUN GAME PRODUCES SECOND 100 YARD RUSHING GAME
Out of the Rams four games thus far, they have only crossed the century mark on the ground a single time. Against Arizona in week 3, L.A. averaged 5 yards per carry and pounded the ball down the Cardinals throat, which looked like the Rams rushing attack we have grown accustomed to seeing in the McVay-era.
Now, the run game was basically non-existent against San Francisco on Monday Night, which made the offense extremely one-dimensional and predictable. The Dallas defense is good, but they do have a weakness that the Rams can exploit. Through 4 games, the Cowboys defense is giving up 104 rushing yards a game, and even gave up 176 yards on the ground to the Giants.
If the Rams want to win this game, they will establish the ground game early and often which, in turn, will open up more passing lanes for Stafford and prevent the Cowboys from having pure pass-rushing opportunities. When the Rams win Sunday, expect the Rams to have a big day running the football.
3) FIRST GAME WITH ZERO TURNOVERS
This one is extremely obvious, however, it will be instrumental in whether the Rams win or lose. Last week, the defining moment in the football game was a pick-6 that Stafford threw that shut the door on any comeback the Rams had in mind. Prior to that moment, L.A. had a shot to go down and tie the game in a contest where they seemingly had no momentum all night.
The fact that the Rams had a shot to win Monday even though the offense was as horrible as can be is very encouraging, and a testament to how well the defense has been playing as of late. With that being said, the Rams need to minimize the chances the Cowboys have offensively, and turning the ball over just gives Rush and Co. extra opportunities to get comfortable and find their groove.
When the Rams win this Sunday, expect them to take good care of the football and produce their first zero turnover game of the year.
3 REASONS THE RAMS MAY LOSE
1) TWO WORDS: MICAH. PARSONS.
Game-wrecker, unblockable, relentless, and a one-of-a-kind talent. No I’m not describing our hall of famer Aaron Donald, although all those apply. I’m actually referring to Cowboys All-Pro Micah Parsons. In just his second season, Micah Parsons is showing that he is one of the best players in all of football, as well as the man who will take the torch from Aaron Donald as the best defensive player in the NFL.
Parsons can play all over the field, but his strength is his ability to rush the passer. He has unteachable traits and tools that make him one-of-one, and the Rams will have their hands full trying to block him this week. Parsons has been held sackless the past two games, so he will be extremely hungry against an offensive line that has looked horrible at times this year. If the Rams lose to the Cowboys this week, expect Micah Parsons to put on an absolute clinic.
2) MAYBE IT ISN’T MAGIC
As said earlier, back-up quarterbacks, more times than not, prove exactly why they are back-up quarterbacks. However, there are outliers, and Cowboys could potentially have one of those outliers in their hands. Quarterback Cooper Rush has yet to lose in his NFL career thus far when he starts, and it may not be a fluke after all.
Rush has looked very poised this season, making big-throws and minimizing the gap between himself and starting QB Dak Prescott. There is a legitimate chance that Cooper Rush is simply a really good quarterback that hasn’t had the chance to show what he can do over an extended period of time. If the Rams lose this week, expect for Cooper Rush to continue his stellar play en route to a Cowboys win.
3) O-LINE GIVES UP MULTIPLE SACKS ONCE AGAIN
Through 4 games, Matthew Stafford has been sacked a whopping 16 times. For reference, he was sacked a total of 30 times in ALL OF last season. The Rams are already half-way towards their sacks given up all year last season just a quarter of the way through the season, which is on pace for over 60 sacks given up.
Protecting an aging Stafford should be at the forefront of the Los Angeles offense, yet the offensive line has done the exact opposite of that. The offensive line has been the weakness of the entire team thus far, and their job does not get any easier with the Cowboys coming to town this week. If the Rams lose their second straight this week, expect Matthew Stafford to get punished once again.