Cautiously optimistic. That's how I'd describe how much of Cowboys Nation feels about this game. Deservedly so. The Dallas Cowboys seem to matchup pretty well with the Los Angeles Rams as we head into Saturday's Divisional game. However, matching up well and taking advantage of those areas where you have an edge are two entirely different things.
Remember when Jerry Jones said the Cowboys have similar weapons as the Rams. Not so crazy now.
The last time these two teams played in the regular season was in 2017. It was a shootout in every essence of the word. It was one of two games that season where the offense scored 30 or more points and still lost the contest because their defense couldn't stop the Rams that day. In large part because there was no Sean Lee.
Without Sean Lee in 2017, the Dallas Cowboys were terrible on defense. Jaylon Smith was still working his way back to a football field functional level of health and Damien Wilson was your second linebacker that day. We all remember him in coverage attempting to stay with Todd Gurley. It wasn't a pretty site.
Fast forward a year and a half and the linebacking situation has changed drastically since that disappointing loss in 2017.
Sean Lee is now on the back burner at the linebacker position. Jaylon Smith played as well as any linebacker in football this season and Leighton Vander Esch could win the defensive rookie of the year in a year where there were several standout defensive rookies. The team is still using Damien Wilson, but is doing so sparingly, which helps him and the defense. Also, they have Joe Thomas getting sub package snaps and playing really well for the Cowboys in coverage.
This is a totally different Cowboys team than the one we saw in 2017. They have what it takes to win, but will they?
On the Road -- but not really -- Again
The Dallas Cowboys this season were 3-5 on the road. Prior to this season, only once since 2014 have the Dallas Cowboys been worse than .500 on the road; the 2015 season where they went 4-12. That team went 3-5 on the road.
In Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach, the Cowboys have never been worse than 3-5 on the road. However, in the 2014 and 2016 seasons, where they won the division, they went 8-0 on the road and 6-2 on the road. In 2017, they also went 6-2 on the road.
It's the first time the Dallas Cowboys had a winning record on the season, while having a losing record on the road.
Generally speaking the Cowboys have been really good on the road in Jason Garrett's tenure, but for some reason, they haven't fared as well this season. Now they've played in some tough places this season like Seattle and Carolina. In the first seven games of the season, the Dallas Cowboys went 0-4 on the road. They finished the season strong by going 3-1 in the back half of the season, their lone road loss, the shutout in Indianapolis.
With an expectation that there will be a Dallas Cowboys fans in Los Angeles for this week's game, this has the possibility of being more of a neutral site game than a road game. Pundits are anticipating that the crowd could be more than half Cowboys fans. The Cowboys have held training camp in Oxnard, California for years and have had a footprint in Southern California for a long time.
Even though they're on the road, that should give the Cowboys a huge lift, especially on defense.
The Cowboys don't have the luxury of starting slow on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball. The Rams can score quick and put you in a double-digit hole in the blink of an eye. We've seen the offense start slow in a lot of first halves, but come on strong in the second half to pull away.
The offense can't afford to be sluggish out of the gate. The Rams are one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys have to take advantage of that. They have to get Ezekiel Elliott going early and use Dak Prescott in the running game to try to take the wind out of the Rams defense, in particular Aaron Donald.
This is a defense that wants you to throw the ball, so if you can get touchdowns early in the game and not allow the Rams offense to get ahead of you, the Cowboys should have an opportunity to control this game from the outset with their excellent running game.
On the flip side, the Cowboys defense can't afford to allow any big plays in the early going or quick scoring drives. When those things happen, it puts pressure on the offense to score and if they don't, it can take all the wind out the team's sails.
Making a Difference, By Amari Cooper
Imagine how this season would have gone had the Dallas Cowboys front office not pulled the trigger on the Amari Cooper trade. The team was 3-4 and was struggling to find their footing in the 2018 NFL Season. They were struggling to find any consistency on offense. The Cowboys weren't getting big plays.
Since the trade that was widely panned by NFL observers across America, the Cowboys have gone 8-2 including the Wild Card win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The offense is just different with this guy in the lineup.
Cooper is always open and his run after catch ability has been a huge asset for the Cowboys offense that was much more plodding prior to the trade.
With Cooper and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys now have two legitimate threats to score every time they touch the ball.
Rise of the (New) Triplets
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper all out their imprint on the Cowboys win last week and now the Cowboys finally seem to have a Triplets Redux.
Dak Prescott’s passing line wasn’t impressive, but it was the plays he made at the end of the game that gave Cowboys Nation belief that this is a guy that is going to will the Cowboys to victory.
Ezekiel Elliott has more than 100 yards rushing and had his two biggest runs of the game at times where the team needed a big play. First at the end of the first half, Elliott bounced outside and took the ball for a huge gain that led to Dak Prescott’s touchdown pass to Michael Gallup. Then as the Cowboys were trying to salt away the game, he again bounced to the outside and after putting a Seattle defensive back in the dirt was able to pick up the first down and more while keeping the clock running.
Amari Cooper has a huge impact on the game as well. Caught four first downs while going over 100 yards on seven catches himself. He sparked the offense with his big run after the catch toward the end of the game, and has done that for 11 weeks.
For years the Cowboys front office tried to have an updated version of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, with little success. But with the 2018’s version of The Triplets all under 25 and still on their rookie contracts, they’ve finally found three players who can be what the Triplets if the 90’s were to the Cowboys of the 90’s.
This is a really hard game to pick. All week I’ve been working to not let the fan in me take over. I’ve attempted to maintain a sense of rationality with this game. Every time I think about the game, I just get the feeling the Cowboys win.
The Cowboys offense can win on the ground and through the air against the Rams defense.
We’ve seen this defense take over games like they did against the Saints. They have the mix of speed, physicality, and heart to play with a team as explosive as the Los Angeles Rams.
The Cowboys have the offensive and defensive formula to win this time of year. They run the ball, hit explosive plays in the passing game, and eat up large portions of the game clock. On defense they can get pressure with their front four and have a team that rallies to the ball and makes plays.
So with that, I see the Cowboys coming away with yet again, a close victory.
Cowboys 26 - Rams 20
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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