When you look at the 2018 metrics of both the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams, there's no reason Dallas should win this Divisional playoff game.
By overall DVOA the Cowboys are by far the worst remaining playoff team, 20th overall in the league, while the Rams sit comfortably in the top 10. When comparing the production of the two offenses, that of the Rams dwarfs that of the Cowboys. And when you look at the numbers behind the Cowboys ability to stop the strength of the Rams offense (the play action pass), there's little to support fans' hope for an upset victory.
But doesn't it just feel like the Cowboys can do it?
Yes, it does. And there is reason and logic behind this belief. In fact, you can look at the Cowboys' own history to see where they may find an advantage this Saturday night.
Let's flashback to 2007. Divisional round.
The 13-3 Dallas Cowboys were the talk of the NFC all season. They featured a high flying young offense, led by an exciting quarterback in Tony Romo. The play caller? An up-and-coming offensive "guru" Jason Garrett, who was garnering attention for head coaching jobs around the league.
They were loaded with weapons offensively, and are arguably the best team the Dallas Cowboys have had since the mid-1990's. The league seemed set for a Cowboys-Patriots showdown in the Super Bowl.
Their first playoff opponent, the New York Giants, were much less threatening on paper. Like the 2018 Cowboys, they were the worst remaining playoff team by DVOA, while the 2007 Cowboys sat in the top 3. They had a young quarterback in Eli Manning who, despite his high draft positioning, hadn't "proved it" yet in the league.
They were really built on the back of their defense, particularly their defensive line. Tenacious pass rushers like Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora led the way, with a punishing run game and dangerous number-one receiver helping their young quarterback on the offensive side of the ball.
Dallas was expected to not only beat, but potentially roll the New York Giants that Sunday. In fact, Dallas was a 7 point favorite at home that Sunday.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Let's recap. A 13-3, 7 point home favorite who's top 10 in DVOA and has one of the most explosive offenses in all of football versus a 10-6 underdog led by their pass rush and defense, but is largely considered the "worst" remaining playoff team.
Sounds like this Cowboys/Rams match up to me.
Like the Giants that afternoon, the Cowboys need to stay true to their identity this Saturday night. They need to make the game as ugly as possible, ugly enough to make all of the national fans complain about how bogged down and slow the game feels.
This is where the Cowboys excel. Where they can pound the ball against a less-than-average run defense and keep that explosive offense watching from the sidelines.
I know the comparison isn't perfect, but the play style Dallas needs to mimic matches rather well. If the Dallas Cowboys can force the Rams to play their brand of football, rather than the style Los Angeles has become accustomed to all season long, they could find themselves in the NFC championship game next Sunday.
Could OC Kellen Moore Be More “Vanilla” Against Dolphins This Week?
The Cowboys are sort of in a no-win situation this Sunday.
If they come out and dominate the openly tanking Miami Dolphins, they'll have done exactly what they should do. But, if they lose to this putrid roster or lose one of their key players to injury, then this week three game would be considered a disaster.
So how should the Cowboys approach the Miami Dolphins?
Something tells me that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore may look more "basic" than usual this week. Heralded for his creativity over the first two games, Moore may not want to show too much against the lowly Dolphins. Especially if the Cowboys can simply impose their will, a la the 2016 offensive gameplan.
Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard should expect a lot of inside and outside zone opportunities this week, with each having a chance to have their best individual performances of the season. Tight end Blake Jarwin and wide receiver Devin Smith could see a lot of opportunities through the air as well, as the Cowboys may want to avoid putting Amari Cooper in situations which could cause injury.
Kellen Moore may want to come out firing with Dak Prescott and this dynamic passing game at first to get a quick lead, and then look to shorten the game as much as possible with his running game.
Honestly, as much as Cowboys Nation may not like it, I wouldn't be shocked if Miami covered this lofty 23 point spread. Dallas could look to get up a couple touchdowns, then proceed to sit on the ball and just look to get out of the stadium alive. Especially considering that the schedule gets much more difficult in the weeks following this Miami game.
With key NFC matchups against the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles looming large, health is the most important factor this week against the Dolphins.
Well, health and winning, of course.
#DALvsMIA: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
Dallas and Miami could not be in more different modes heading into this week's game.
At 2-0 the Cowboys are looking to take the next step and earn themselves a Super Bowl ring. At a historically bad 0-2, the Dolphins are looking to go 0-16 and get a shot at drafting the top quarterback in next year's draft.
Vegas has this game at a ridiculous 21 point spread, which should rightfully scare gamblers away. But, both the Ravens and Patriots have beaten the brakes off Miami already this year, and Dallas seems primed to do so as well.
Cowboys -21. O/U 47.5 Points
The Cowboys are off to their best start since 2015, and they certainly expect their next 14 games to go much better than they did during that 2015 season. Dallas' offense is as dynamic as any in the league through two weeks, and quarterback Dak Prescott is playing like a legit MVP candidate.
Defensively, the Cowboys have been a bit disappointing thus far, but they have to be feeling like Sunday is the perfect opportunity for a "get right game." Defensive end Robert Quinn returns from suspension to take on his former team, and DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be getting his legs under him after missing all of training camp.
Prescott's favorite target during the opening victories, Michael Gallup, is set to miss this game with an injury, but I don't expect it to matter much against the Dolphins.
Where to even begin with the Miami Dolphins.
After trading for former first round pick Josh Rosen this offseason, the Dolphins decided to start journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Then they traded their own former first round left tackle Laremy Tunsil for a slew of high draft picks. Then, most recently, they traded another former first rounder in Minkah Fitzpatrick for even more picks.
Miami is doing everything they can do to hoard draft picks, ensuring they'll have their pick of the top quarterbacks over the next two draft classes. In the end, this tanking strategy could very well work for the Dolphins, but in 2019 they are going to look really bad.
They've been dominated and embarrassed both weeks thus far, and most expect that embarrassment to continue Sunday against the Cowboys. Operation Fish Tank is in full effect.
- The Dolphins are 0-5 against the spread their last 5 games.
- The score total has gone over in 4 of Miami's last 6 games.
- The Cowboys are 6-0 outright their last 6 home games.
- The score total has gone over in each of the Cowboys' last 5 games.
If it were to happen, this would be one of the worst losses I could ever remember in Cowboys history. Luckily, I highly doubt the Cowboys don't take care of business on Sunday.
Miami is downright trying to lose football games, and it's hard to imagine this group coming into Dallas and beating such a talented bunch. I'll take the Cowboys big, but I don't have the guts to bet any team -21 in the NFL.
Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need
It's pretty difficult to deal with the hype of being 2-0 to open a 2019 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys have done just that with a revamped offense and a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in the process. They currently sit alone atop of the NFC East and although it's too early to know what kind of team this will be when it's all said alone, we're excited.
Let's dive into this week's takeaways!
We Need Robert Quinn Back
The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn't been as bad as many would think. They've had a few bad moments but the talent is still there and should be improving as the season goes on. Last Sunday, what was most frustrating to me was the lack of a pass rush. DeMarcus Lawrence had a pretty good game, even though his stat line doesn't look very pretty. The pressure was there constantly and he forced a handful of bad plays from Case Keenum. Tyrone Crawford managed to sack him once.
Other than that, for most of the game the pressure was scarce. Fortunately, the Cowboys are getting Robert Quinn back from suspension this week. Having two quality edge rushers will boost a defense that has the potential to be great, but has only been "good" two weeks into the season.
Ezekiel Elliott Had The Kind of Game The Cowboys Need
Zeke was back for a heavier workload in week 2 after having a snap count in the season opener. It may have not felt like it, but the Cowboys' star running back had a pretty good game versus the Redskins. On 23 carries he had 111 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
In contrast of recent years, Elliott had a great game without the team heavily leaning on the running game. Dak Prescott threw the ball 30 times and Zeke still had a great game. This is what Cowboys Nation should want out of Kellen Moore's offense.
Elliott has two rushing touchdowns in the season, compared to six in all of last year. This is a product of an offense that's now dangerous in many ways, specially in the red zone. You gotta love what Moore is accomplishing so far.
Slow Starts Can't Continue to Happen
The biggest issue with the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season has been their slow openings. In both games they've started trailing early. The worst thing about it is that it's been due to giving up big plays (like Saquon Barkley's big run in week 1) and quick, unsuccessful drives on offense (like a three-and-out drive followed by a drive that ended in an interception last Sunday).
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants and Redskins didn't pose much of a problem. But when we reach the tougher stretches of the schedule, we know how quickly a game can turn south. Not every rival will be as unforgiving as the 0-2 foes they've faced so far.
Dak Prescott Continues to Prove He's It
Last but not least, we'll talk about Dak Prescott. Once again, he looked great. He finished the day with 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that came on a tipped ball from Randall Cobb's hand. He threw an absolute dime to WR Devin Smith, giving him his ninth 50+ yard touchdown pass of his career (ranking third in the NFL since 2016 behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers).
All game long, he was precise against Washington's defense. He dealt three touchdowns to three different players and was making throws with anticipation and poise. If you're not sold on Dak Prescott yet, I don't know if you'll ever be.
He also looked well as a runner, specially on that 42-yard run where he stiffed arm Josh Norman. I hope the Cowboys continue to use him in the running game.
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