The Dallas Cowboys were able to outslug the Seattle Seahawks over Wild-Card Weekend, so now they’ll try to do the same against the Los Angeles Rams. It’s certainly a different type of challenge, but it isn’t one that they aren’t up to — outside of the Saints the teams that beat the Rams this year used a style the Cowboys thrive on.
The Cowboys actually used that style to throttle the Saints in the regular season. Man up on wide receivers, contain the run, and don’t bite on play-action. The Rams offense has struggled at times since wide receiver Cooper Kupp was moved to IR, and the Cowboys will try to capitalize on that.
The Rams, however, have the weapons to make the Cowboys’ lives tough. Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods have been very good this season, with Jared Goff driving the offense. Sean McVay has created a coaching mold that NFL teams are trying to fill, and the Rams finished the season with two straight wins after dropping two straight to the Bears and Eagles.
The entire Rams offense however, is going to run through Gurley. The Cowboys were fifth in the NFL against the run, whereas the Rams were the No. 3 rushing team. If the Rams get Gurley going early and make the play-action effective, then the Cowboys will be in for a long day. The Cowboys linebackers are some of the best in these playoffs, so it’ll come down to them. If they keep their eyes on the ball and don’t bite on McVay’s motion-heavy offense, then the Rams offense could be in for another performance like their loss against the Bears in which they put up just six points and Gurley had 28 yards.
The Cowboys offensively, of course, will be going through Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys finished 10th in the NFL running the ball, and despite their vaunted defensive line the Rams were 23rd defending it. They were 14th against the pass which, while not great, is still a dangerous way to play against them due to their monstrous pass rushers (particularly Aaron Donald).
Both of these teams are very dangerous in their own way, but the Cowboys have an x-factor on their side: Momentum. They’ve won eight of their last nine games, and the Rams’ last two wins have come against the Cardinals and 49ers. A win is a win, but all wins aren’t created equal. The Cowboys have the opportunity to play spoiler in this game, and they’re well aware.
Watch Cowboys vs. Rams NFC Divisional Round
Who will win?
Our CBS Sports experts are, perhaps unsurprisingly, split right down the middle on this one. In a 4-4 tie, Pete Prisco, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and John Breech like the Cowboys to pull of the upset, whereas Jared Dubin, Jason La Canfora, Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard like the Rams to hold down L.A. With that being said, everyone with the exception of Richard likes the Cowboys to cover the seven-point spread, so expect a close game either way.