What a difference a week makes. Last week, the 64 voters on the nine pick 'em panels we follow favored the Titans 52-12 over the Cowboys.
That ratio is likely to change by quite a lot in favor of the Cowboys this week. But before we find out how much the Cowboys are favored over the Rams (the title of this post is somewhat of a spoiler), let's take a look at what our panel of prominent pigskin pundits predict for the game:
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News
||31-17||For all the Cowboys' concerns, they have a pretty good chance to be 2-1. Their offensive line and running game are keys, both to take it easy on a still recovering Tony Romo and a patchwork defense. DeMarco Murray will keep rolling, and this matchup on a fast track indoors is a chance to get their receivers loose for big plays again. Zac Stacy and Brian Quick aren’t enough weapons for the Rams to attempt to hold serve in another home-like road game for Big D|
|Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk||28-13||The 1-1 Cowboys are one-eighth of the way to their fourth straight 8-8 finish, and I think what we’re going to see from them this year is more or less what we’ve seen through two games: They’ll beat bad teams like the Titans and lose to good teams like the 49ers. This week it’s the Rams, a bad team, so they’ll win.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald
||27-17||Some sports books have STL favored by a point here, but our picks are based on lines in Thursday’s Miami Herald, which still had ’Boys the narrow pick. Whatever. Give me Dallas no matter the line. DeMarco Murray is hot and has a surreal 428 rushing yards vs. Rams in past two meetings. And if homies gird to stop the run, Tony Romo will outpitch either Shaun Hill or Austin Davis.|
|Sam Farmer, LA Times||24-17||Yes, the Rams pulled off a victory at Tampa Bay, but now they've lost DE Chris Long. They are hurting. The Cowboys are nothing special, but they aren't as bad as predicted on defense.|
Peter Schrager, Foxsports
||24-17||Make no mistake about it, Tony Romo’s passes don’t have quite the same zip on them this year as they once did. And two recent back surgeries have limited the mobility of a guy who for many years was one of the more dangerous out-of-the-pocket quarterbacks in the game. And yet, the Dallas offense will be OK if it continues to get the same production out of DeMarco Murray as it had in its first two games. When a back averages 5.8 yards per carry, as Murray did against the Titans in Week 2, you’re not going to lose many games. When I predicted the Cowboys would win 10 games back in August, it was because I saw a schedule and slate of opponents I thought they could manage. If the defense can’t stop Austin Davis — even if the game is on the road in a hostile environment — 10 wins seems unlikely.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
||23-14||The Cowboys are playing consecutive road games, but I think they got their running game going against the Titans and it will carry over here. The Rams are having trouble scoring points, and that will be the case again -- even against a bad Dallas defense.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
||22-19||Has anyone on the Rams ever successfully tackled DeMarco Murray? The first game of Murray's career in which he had significant carries was against St. Louis in 2011 -- and he put up 253 yards. Facing the team again last year, Murray compiled 96 rushing yards in the first half alone, and wound up finishing with 175. That's two games and 428 yards. Will Shaun Hill and Co. get even half that kind of ground production from Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham? Because if they don't, and Dallas' defense is close to being as improved as it seemed to be last week, the Rams will lose another home game.|
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
||14-13||The next time anyone talks about expanding the NFL, point out that this game could feature a quarterback showdown of Brandon Weeden and Austin Davis. Advantage: No one.|
Randall the Handle, Toronto Sun
||- -||Dallas winning as an underdog last week in convincing fashion has everyone getting back on board. What else is new? This is what the Cowboys do by raising expectations, only to be followed by disappointment. [...] The Rams will play it smart as they did in their victory over Tampa Bay last week. Rookie QB Austin Davis made his first NFL start for St. Louis and proved to be poised and efficient. Davis was 22-of-29 for 235 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions. The Rams’ proficient running game should control the tempo of this one and, combined with the stronger defence, good special teams and a precocious young quarterback, St. Louis keeps Dallas consistently inconsistent.|
Now on to our customary look at some additional pick 'em panels, who come down heavily in favor of the Cowboys. Note that the last column in the table shows how accurate these panels were in correctly predicting the correct outcome of the first two Cowboys games this year. Not a lot of accuracy here, but that could improve with a Cowboys win on Sunday.
|NFL Around The League||5||0||.600 (6-4)|
|SB Nation||5||2||.500 (7-7)|
|Dallas Morning News||7||2||.444 (8-10)|
|Pro Football Focus||8||1||.375 (6-10)|
A 53-11 vote feels eerily similar to Atlanta's 56-14 score over the Buccaneers on Thursday, but over the years we've come to understand that when the Cowboys are strong favorites, the game ends up as a nailbiter more often than not.
Can the Cowboys live up to the expectations outlined above?