The Los Angeles Rams head to AT&T Stadium to take on the Dallas Cowboys in an early window game on Sunday. The two teams are 2-2 in their last four meetings against each other, with the most recent one being a 22-10 loss for LA. The Rams come into the game after a tough 24-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Cowboys rallied last week, after a Week 5 beat down at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, to get a 20-17 win over the Chargers.
These are the four most important storylines I believe will affect the outcome of Los Angeles at Dallas this weekend.
Who is kicking field goals for the Rams
LA released former Cowboys kicker Brett Maher on Tuesday, after he missed two field goals (six total misses this season) and an extra point. This is something that Dallas is also familiar with, after Maher missed four straight extra point kicks in their 2022 playoff loss to the 49ers, he was not resigned by the team this past offseason.
The Rams quickly signed Lucas Havrisik off of the Cleveland Browns practice squad, a move in part due to the recommendation of previous LA kicker Matt Gay, who spent time with Havrisik on the Colts, per head coach Sean McVay at Wednesday’s press conference:
“They had liked him (Lucas) in Cleveland, Matt Gay’s feedback was something that weighed into it as well. Based on him being around him in Indianapolis and so, all of those factors are things that go into it.”
While the Rams brought in some additional kickers to try out on Wednesday as well, it looks as though they are prepared to go into Sunday’s game with Havrisik, who has never had a regular season kicking attempt. McVay also elaborated more on the kicking situation Wednesday, saying:
“Lucas is a guy that we ended up signing, we’ll bring him in here and see how he does. Had a couple other guys that we worked out, you know, as possibilities, and the other thing too is want to thank Brett Maher for his contributions.”
Like the Matt Gay midseason signing a few years ago, it seems like the Rams are hoping to find a diamond in the rough again in Havrisik.
LA offensive line vs. Micah Parsons
The Rams offense line fared well against Pittsburgh’s pass rush that included T.J. Watt, with Kevin Dotson and Rob Havenstein specifically having good games according to PFF, however, left tackle Alaric Jackson struggled and will need to step up huge against arguably one of the best current defensive players in the league, Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
Micah Parsons currently has a grade of 91.0 from PFF, which is quite high. He comes into the game with 11 solo tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble. Los Angeles cannot put Jackson on an island alone with Parsons and will need to find creative ways to get him some help against the Cowboys star.
Surprisingly, even with Parsons, Dallas’ defense has been somewhat susceptible to the run, allowing 4.2 yards per carry (20th in the league) and 670 yards rushing on the season (13th in the league).
Despite losing starter Kyren Williams until at least Week 10, the Rams actually found some success rushing last week. Darrell Henderson and Royce Freeman combined for a total of 135 yards on the ground vs. Pittsburgh, and could be the answer to sustaining drives on Sunday.
Rams passing offense vs injury-filled Dallas secondary
If Matthew Stafford has time, there should be plenty of opportunities for rookie Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp to make some big plays. The Cowboys are without their star cornerback Trevon Diggs, who was put on IR early into the 2023 campaign, after a season-ending knee injury. Their other cornerback C.J. Goodwin was also put on season-ending IR for a torn pec muscle just last week, so the Cowboys are extremely thin in the secondary.
This could prove a benefit to the Rams, who like to push the ball down field and are tied for third in the NFL on offensive plays over 25 yards with 17 total. Stafford had competitions of 37 yards to Nacua and 31 yards to Tutu Atwell in the Pittsburgh game, with Atwell’s reception going for a touchdown.
The Cowboys will also be without their middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch having also been placed on IR last week. This could open the second level of the defense for not just the pass, but as I said earlier, the run game as well.
LA secondary vs Dallas receivers
The Rams could be at a slight disadvantage against the Cowboys wide receivers, as their best receiver CeeDee Lamb usually has been lining up in the slot, which would pin him against Cobie Durant for most of the day. Durant has struggled this year, allowing 19 catches on 29 targets and currently sports a PFF score of 51.0. Los Angeles uses a lot of zone coverages, and this could be a way to help against Lamb. However, for the most part, Durant will need to be the one to step up out of the Rams secondary.
On the outside, LA will face former receiver Brandin Cooks. While Cooks isn’t having the stat heavy season he is used to, he has made some clutch plays in crucial moments including a touchdown and a big 3rd and 9 contested catch with only three minutes left against the Chargers. It was a needed reception that kept the drive alive, and eventually led to the game-winning field goal for Dallas.
The Rams will look to get back to .500 with a victory at Dallas on Sunday or risk falling to 3-5 and dropping further in the NFC standings. With San Francisco’s recent slump and Los Angeles holding a tie breaker over Seattle from their Week 1 victory over the Seahawks, the NFC West is now much more interesting for LA if the Rams can get back to 4-4.