The Dallas Cowboys (6-7) prepare to play host to the Los Angeles Rams (8-5) in an important game for both teams. The Dallas Cowboys are still attempting to secure the NFC East and what would equate as the fourth seed in the NFC playoffs. The Rams are in third place in the NFC West and currently a game behind the Minnesota Vikings for the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. If the Cowboys lose this game, it’s not the end of their world as they can still go 2-1 in these final three weeks and make the playoffs. For the Rams, they need to win and get some help to find their way back.
The Cowboys and fans, shouldn’t treat this game as a throwaway though, because every game matters in the NFL and they haven’t played well enough over the last three weeks to treat any game like it doesn’t matter. With two NFC East games to finish the season, you can’t take any game for granted because we’ve seen some weird things happen in those NFC East games. And the Cowboys lost to the Jets, so just because the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins are reeling, those games aren’t gimmes by any stretch of the imagination.
The Dallas Cowboys have met twice since Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott came into the league in 2016. The first time was a regular-season 35-30 loss to the Rams in 2017. That was one of two games early in the season where the Cowboys offense put up 30 points and failed to secure the victory.
The other, and more recent, loss to the Rams was the 30-22 defeat they suffered in the divisional round of the playoffs last January. The Cowboys will be hoping for redemption from that playoff ouster that saw both the offense and the defense struggle in the first half before rallying to get the game close at the end.
This is a huge game for both teams. Let’s dig in.
Before Thursday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets, the Dallas Cowboys ranked first in the NFL in yards and first in the NFL in yards per play. Unfortunately, their inconsistency on both offense and defense hasn’t allowed the impressive offensive output to translate into wins.
At 6-7, they have the worst record of any team currently in position to make the playoffs if the season were to end today.
Dak Prescott is also first in the NFL in passing yards.
The Cowboys as a team are first in the NFL in yards gained per drive.
Dak Prescott is one of two quarterbacks in Cowboys’ history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season joining Tony Romo. Prescott is the only quarterback in the history of the franchise to lead the NFL in passing yards through 14 weeks of the season.
He’s already surpassed his career-high for passing yards, touchdowns, and QBR. If he continues at his pace of 317 passing yards per game, Prescott will pass the 5,000-yard passing mark on the season. In the history of the NFL there have been just 11 5,000 yard passing seasons. Drew Brees has accomplished that feat five times. The other six occurrences belong to Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matthew Stafford.
Dak Prescott, heading into week 15 is third in the NFL in QBR behind Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. He’s been among the league leaders all season. QBR takes into account expected points added (or EPA), which measures the success rate of individual plays based on down and distance.
Amari Cooper is fourth in the NFL in touchdown receptions with eight. His five touchdown receptions of more than 20 yards is first in the NFL in 2019. Even in a season in which Cooper hasn’t been the healthiest, he’s continued to be a tremendous weapon for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.
2019 marks the fourth time in his five year career that he’s gone over the 1,000 yard receiving mark. With three games left in the season, Cooper has a chance to set career highs in yards, receptions, and targets.
An area that will be important for the Dallas Cowboys to control on Sunday against the Rams will be Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rushing attack. Heading into week 15, the Rams rank fifth in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 16.
The Rams defense is also fifth in the NFL in yards per play allowed at 4.9. That doesn’t bode well for the Dallas Cowboys. Against the New England Patriots (2nd in yards per play allowed), Buffalo Bills (4th), Chicago Bears (6th), New York Jets (7th), and Minnesota Vikings (10th), the Cowboys have gone 0-5. That’s not encouraging.
The Los Angeles Rams are seventh in the NFL in turnovers committed by their offense. If there’s a week for the Dallas Cowboys to get back on the right side of the turnover battle, it’s this week.
Per Pro Football Focus, Jaylon Smith ranks eighth in the NFL among off-ball linebackers in their “stops” metric, which is measured by tackles that resulted in a loss for the offense. For comparison, he’s just one stop behind Carolina Panthers Linebacker Luke Keuchly.
The Dallas Cowboys are ninth in the NFL in points per game at 25.7 while the Los Angeles Rams are 12th in the NFL at 23.9.
On the defensive side of the ball, the teams are practically even. The Rams are 11th in the NFL in scoring defense and the Cowboys are 12th, both allowing just over 20 points per game.
With 1.5 more sacks this season, Robert Quinn will post the second-highest sack total of his career and the highest since 2014, which was also the last season he had a double-digit sack season. He’s been tremendous for the Dallas Cowboys.
This is another week where the Dallas Cowboys are going to have to tackle well in the passing game. The Rams are 13th in the NFL in yards per attempt at 7.6. Jared Goff is 20th in the NFL in Next Gen Stats’ Intended Air Yards per attempt at eight.
If the Cowboys hope to show up well on defense, they’re going to have to tackle well in the secondary.
With 79 first downs gained on the ground, the Rams rank 14th in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys are seventh in first downs gained on the ground. Through the air, the Cowboys rank third in the NFL and the Rams 11th.
The 15 passing touchdowns thrown this year by the Rams ranks 28th in the NFL this season. The only teams with fewer touchdown passes are the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Washington Redskins.
In fact, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only other team in the NFL with a winning record and in the bottom 10 in the NFL in touchdown passes. The Steelers have played three different quarterbacks this season.
If you didn’t notice, the Rams have more rushing touchdowns than they do passing touchdowns in 2019. That’s almost an impossible feat in the modern NFL.
15 also represents where the Rams sit in scoring percentage at 35.1%. For reference, the league leader Baltimore Ravens are scoring 52.1% of the time and the Dallas Cowboys are sixth in the NFL at 41.7%.
Byron Jones is one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. Often, people point to his lack of turnover production as the reason he’s not an elite corner. However, the numbers tell the tale. Per Pro Football Focus, Jones is sixth in the NFL in coverage snaps per receptions at 15.7 just ahead of All-Pro Cornerback Richard Sherman.
Jones also ranks seventh in the NFL yards per coverage snap allowed.
18 and 19
The number of sacks the Dallas Cowboys have allowed in 2019. First in the NFL.
The number of sacks the Los Angeles Rams have allowed in 2019. Second in the NFL.
26 and 27
Jared Goff’s passer rating of 84.8 is 26th in the NFL while his QBR of 45.1 is just 27th in the NFL. You can make a case that Jared Goff has been a below-average quarterback in 2019. There’s zero reason the Cowboys shouldn’t be able to win in the passing game.
Todd Gurley is averaging just 60 yards per game rushing, which is good for 17th in the NFL. That’s his lowest number since averaging 55 yards per game back in 2015.
- Per Pro Football Focus, among wide receivers with at least 75 targets on the season, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are one of two wide receiver tandems in the NFL in the top 10 in yards per route run. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the other.
- Amari Cooper is first in the NFL in catch percentage on passes greater than 20 yards down field at 66.7% among receivers with at least 15 deep targets. He’s also tied for first in the NFL in touchdown receptions of greater than 20 yards in 2019 with five.
- Despite the perception that Ezekiel Elliott may have lost some burst, the Cowboys running back is third in the NFL in runs greater than 10 yards. Elliott’s sixth in the NFL in rushing yards after contact and eighth in the NFL in yards after contact per attempt. Zeke is still doing Zeke things.
- In Jason Garrett’s tenure as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the team hasn’t gone 3-2 against the Rams. The last win coming in September of 2014. Since, the Cowboys have had few answers for Sean McVay’s offense.
Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but they can give some underlying context to how this game could go. The Dallas Cowboys and the Rams are heading in different directions, especially in the win column. The Cowboys have lost three straight while the Rams are riding a two-game winning streak.
The Cowboys can win this game, but they’re going to have to hit some big plays early in the game and prevent the Rams from getting Jared Goff into shorter second and third downs.
This game won’t completely determine where the Cowboys go the rest of 2019, but it will have a huge impact on their confidence down the stretch. And in a game that is as physical and mental as the NFL is, confidence is huge. Confidence in yourself, in your coaches, in the play call, and in your teammates. The Cowboys have a lot of talent, it just hasn’t come together in a meaningful game yet. This is a perfect opportunity and a perfect opponent for them to flip all the narratives on their head.