The only thing standing in the way of the Cowboys making it to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1995 is the LA Rams. The bookies might have the Cowboys as massive underdogs, but the favorite is not always the safe bet.
The Cowboys have called Los Angeles home as their training camp base for decades and will flood the Memorial Coliseum with fans on Saturday night.
The Rams finished the regular season at 13-3, NFC West champions and had a first-round bye. There is not a lot this team cannot do. The Cowboys have had to take the hard road to Atlanta and Super Bowl 53. They hosted the Seahawks last week and produced one of their best performances of the season to keep the dream alive.
Despite the incredible talent on the Rams D-line, they rank 20th against the rush this season and the Cowboys will look to exploit that this weekend.
Key defensive matchups:
Aaron Donald v Connor Williams/Xavier Su’a Filo
Dallas is one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to allowing interior pressure. Aaron Donald is one of the best pass rushers in the game and loves getting inside his man. Depending on who plays opposite Donald this weekend, they will have his work cut out for them. Su’a Filo would match up nicely with Donald and could handle the pressure, Williams will hold his own but might not have enough to get the wood on Donald.
Donald moves around a lot and could see himself matched up against Zac Martin, which will work in the Cowboys favor. Martin is one of the best guards in the league.
Expect all these players to move around the line on Saturday.
Cowboys secondary v Rams Tight End
Jared Goff and the Rams love using tight ends to run routes and drop in behind the line to make plays. Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett have a knack for opening the field up and spreading opposing defenses out. Cowboys linebackers, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith will need to cover both tight ends as well as watching the run up the middle.
Goff loves throwing the ball on inside routes. Expect Everett to see a lot of balls if the running game isn’t moving early on.
Aqib Talib/Marcus Peters v Amari Cooper
Amari Cooper has been incredible for the Cowboys since his mid-season transfer from the Raiders. If the Rams are to progress to the NFC Championship game, they will have to cover Cooper and cover him well.
Coopers ability to run routes and get separation to have him in the top receivers in the league. Both these cornerbacks will need to have their best game to get the better of the Cowboys. Expect Marcus Peters to start on Cooper, but things could change up if he gets the better of him early.
Todd Gurley v Jaylon Smith/Leighton Vander Esch
Gurley is one of the most dynamic running backs in the game. He may be coming off an injury, but he is still an incredible talent. The biggest matchup in the game will be the Cowboys linebackers looking to stop Gurley.
If the Cowboys can get pressure on Gurley and Goff early, expect the Rams to change up their game plan and move to a throw first option. Vander Esch and Smith have the ability to chase down and hunt any running back in the game. This will be the best battle of the game.
If you can stop Gurley and put pressure on Jared Goff, the Cowboys can leave LA with a huge win. This game will be very close, expect the Cowboys D-line to step up again this week and show their class.