Last week in the Wild Card round against Seattle I identified three Seahawks players who I believed the Dallas Cowboys absolutely had to contain if they wanted to advance in the playoffs. I appropriately titled these players “game wreckers”, because I believe that’s exactly what they are. Today, I’m going to do the same for the Los Angeles Rams.
“Game wreckers” to me are players who can take over the game by themselves. You know, the kind of players who have true game changing ability to positively or negatively impact the outcome of a particular game based on their play. For opposing teams, these are the players they must keep in check if they want to have any chance at coming away with the “W”.
This week in the Divisional Round I believe there are three players in particular the Dallas Cowboys have to contain against the Rams in order to give themselves their best chance at moving on in the playoffs. Continue reading below to see who and why I chose these “game wreckers”.
RB, Todd Gurley
Los Angeles Rams Running Back Todd Gurley is a no-brainer for this list. Leaving him off would be an injustice to the game of football and make all of you question me as a writer. Gurley is arguably the best RB in the entire NFL, although Ezekiel Elliott is definitely in that discussion as well. But, that’s a debate for another time.
For the Dallas Cowboys, keeping Todd Gurley in check is an absolute must. He has been a touchdown machine this season scoring 17 on the ground and adding another four in the passing game. He is a complete back who can do damage from anywhere on the field, much like Zeke does in the Cowboys offense. That fits the “game wrecker” criteria to a T.
Gurley might not be 100% healthy for Saturday’s game though. He was held out the last two weeks of the regular season and was limited in practice earlier this week. According to injury reports though, he was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, meaning he’s probably good to go against the Cowboys. Regardless, he still dangerous even if he’s not fully healthy.
DT, Aaron Donald
Another LA Rams player who fits the criteria as a “game wrecker” to a T is Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald. Donald is arguably one of the most disruptive defensive lineman in the entire NFL and should be a serious contender for this year’s MVP. Yes, a defensive player. I know it’s a rarity, but it’s entirely possible after the season he’s had.
Aaron Donald has absolutely dominated this year, especially getting after opposing quarterbacks. He fell just short of Michael Strahan’s QB sack record (22.5) with 20.5. Although, I’m one of those people that would put an asterisk next to Strahan’s record because of the give me sack he received from Brett Favre. There’s no questioning how Donald has accumulated all of his though.
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is going to have their hands full with the Rams front seven. LA’s DL is full of former first-round picks, but it’s Aaron Donald they really have to worry about the most. His ability to create havoc from the inside is almost uncanny. Add that to his tenacity and you have a recipe for dominance. Containing him would definitely go a long ways in securing the victory Saturday.
WR, Brandin Cooks
LA Rams WR Brandin Cooks may be kind of the forgotten man in Saturday’s Divisional Round game with the Dallas Cowboys, but that doesn’t take away how dangerous he can be if not accounted for each and every play. It’s one of the reasons why three different teams (Saints, Patriots, and Rams) have spent a first-round pick on him to acquire his services.
Brandin Cooks is exactly the kind of receiver who has given the Cowboys problems this season, much like Tyler Lockett did a week ago. Lockett was in my game wreckers article last week and for good reason. If not for his four receptions for 120 yards, Dallas probably would have ran away with the game. That’s the same kind of ability Cooks possesses, except he’s even better.
Cooks may not look like a prototypical #1 WR in the NFL, but his production would suggest otherwise. He caught 80 passes for 1,204 receiving yards and five touchdowns during the regular season. He also added 68 yards on the ground and a TD on just 10 attempts. The Cowboys defense will absolutely have to know where he’s at each and every down if they want to have any chance at keeping him in check.