This year’s path to the playoffs for Dak Prescott and Jared Goff have been very different but such is the norm with these two quarterbacks. Jared Goff was the darling of the 2016 NFL Draft and the Rams mortgaged their future to take him first overall. The Cowboys swung for other options before they landed Dak Prescott with their fourth-round compensatory pick.
Dak came in for Tony Romo and went on to have the best rookie season ever and ushered in a new era for the Cowboys. Jared Goff started on the bench and was winless in seven rookie starts for the Rams. Not about to waste a single moment, the Rams cleaned house of the Jeff Fisher-regime and started anew with an innovative young coach Sean McVay.
Jared Goff’s Rams made the playoffs in last season while Dak Prescott’s Cowboys missed the mark by one awful game in Atlanta. Dak Prescott found himself in sort of a slump that carried into this season as Dallas was 3-5 at the halfway mark. Jared Goff was one of the hottest quarterbacks on one of the best teams at 8-0 through the first-half of this season:
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Through those eight games, these quarterbacks were on very different trajectories in their careers. Jared Goff was a rising star and Dak Prescott’s star had fallen but imagine if it continued like that throughout the entire season:
For one, Jared Goff would be compared to every great passer from Joe Montana to Tom Brady. Dak Prescott would be looking at two-consecutive seasons without a playoff berth and the questions about his long-term future would multiply in the media. Well, as these two prepare to lead their teams to victory with a trip to the NFC Championship game on the line, trajectories have certainly changed.
At the 3-5 crossroads, the Cowboys decided that the season was very salvageable and wanted to double-down on Dak Prescott. The front office went out and mortgaged a little of their future to add Amari Cooper, putting the ball in Dak’s court to perform. The Cowboys went 8-1 over the last nine games, winning the NFC East, and knocking off the wild card Seahawks to advance to this game.
On the opponent’s side of things, Jared Goff wasn’t a perfect 16-0 and the loss of his favorite target Cooper Kupp in week 11 stung a little. Todd Gurley, arguably the best player on the Rams offense has been healing up since Christmas so that’s also figured in. After all, Goff’s Rams earned a little rest, they finished the season 13-3, with the NFC’s second-seed, and a first-round bye.
Just as Dak Prescott was a big part of the 3-5 start he was just as crucial to this 8-1 run. The same can be said for Goff, who was a big part of the 8-0 start but has had a share of struggles in the 5-3 finish. Now, there are arguments to be made about the wave of momentum and what role it plays in the playoff. Through the second-half of this season, the momentum is all with Dak Prescott:
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Dak has been on quite a tear and without his elevated playmaking abilities, the Cowboys wouldn’t be anywhere near the playoffs.
Now, the Rams defense is better than advertised and are capable of creating havoc for quarterbacks. They have arguably the best defensive player in football with Aaron Donald. He and Michael Brockers will put pressure on Prescott, who has been sacked 57 times this season. The Dallas line has been compromised but have played much better in recent weeks. Also, don’t forget that it’s the Cowboys who are bringing the top-rated remaining playoff defense into LA, that’s certainly going to be a factor for Jared Goff,.
The Rams are talent-rich and very well-coached so you can bet that they will be ready for this high-stakes game in front of their hometown crowd. At the same time, the Cowboys have called southern California a second-home for years so expect the visitors side to be well-represented as well. In these games, with so many comparable variables, it usually comes down to the quarterback, the most important position in football.
Jared Goff and his Rams were good enough to have mostly everything sewn up by Thanksgiving. For Dak Prescott, he and the Cowboys have been in playoff-mode for over two months. Just like no other team has won more one-score games this season than Dallas, no quarterback has engineered more game-winning drives in the past three years than Dak Prescott:
Dak has engineered three times as many game-winning drives as Jared Goff. Prescott has six this season to Goff’s four. Dak has completed 69% of his passes for 1,801 yards, with a 103 passer rating in those six game. He also has accounted for 11 passing touchdowns and three rushing scores, which is half of his season total of 28 coming in games where he lead his team to victory on a game-winning drive. That’s quite the accomplishment for a young quarterback but that just embodies who Dak is.
When the pressure is insurmountable, which it often is during the playoffs, the quarterbacks that have the toughness find ways to overcome it. So far in three short seasons, Prescott has 30 games where he’s been sacked multiple times to Jared Goff’s 23 games:
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In the face of pressure, through all the hits, sacks, or other circumstances, that’s when we see the best of Dak Prescott. That’s why the Cowboys have a decent shot at this because they have the edge at quarterback.