Football is finally back. It’s hard to believe in just one day, the Dallas Cowboys will take on the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium, kicking off their 2020 season. What seemed like the longest offseason in football history has finally come to an end, and we will have football every weekend for the next 20 plus weeks.
Sunday will be a day of firsts for many members of the Cowboys. Mike McCarthy will enter his first game as a head coach for a team other than Green Bay. CeeDee Lamb will get his first NFL action, and new acquisitions like Aldon Smith will have their first chance to show what they bring to the table.
As we near closer and closer to kickoff, here are three bold predictions for the Cowboys season opener in Los Angeles.
1. Elliott/Pollard combine for over 160 yards of total offense
When the Rams and Cowboys last faced each other, the Dallas running backs had an absolute field day. Ezekiel Elliott compiled 160 total yards of offense to go with two touchdowns, while Tony Pollard had possibly the best game of his career, rushing the ball 12 times for 131 yards and a TD.
Working on a #Cowboys run game piece for @NFLMatchup. Good one here from the Week 15 win over #Rams.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) December 16, 2019
Ezekiel Elliott (24-117-2TD) on the counter scheme — Guard pull + FB lead. Watch LT Tyron Smith work up to the LB off the combo block. pic.twitter.com/p40L8lVtHo
While the Rams’ defense looks a little different in 2020 than it did last season, Elliott and Pollard will both still have big days on Sunday night. If you take a look at the Los Angeles defense, their biggest weakness seems to be the linebacker spot. Currently, the Rams will likely run out Micah Kiser and Troy Reeder as their two starting inside linebackers.
The former fifth-round-pick Kiser did not appear in a single game during the 2019 season, and has just four total tackles to his credit in his NFL career. His likely co-starter Reeder has more experience, but not much better results. In 2019, Pro Football Focus graded Reeder with an overall defensive grade of 28.6 on this season. Playing 298 total snaps, the former Delaware Blue Hen had a defensive grade lower than 40 in five games.
Both Reeder and Kiser really struggle in coverage, which is a big advantage for the Cowboys. Dallas will use both Elliott in Pollard as runners, but also try to get them the ball through the air, attacking the Rams’ linebackers. The Cowboys running back tandem will get off to a big start to their 2020 season.
2. The Cowboys’ defense sacks Jared Goff four times
If you look at what position group the Cowboys upgraded the most since they last took the field in 2019, it’s fairly obvious it’s the defensive line. Dallas went out this offseason and added Aldon Smith, Everson Griffen, Dontari Poe and Neville Gallimore. Smith and Griffen are both former Pro Bowlers, with Griffen receiving the honor as currently as last season.
Dontari Poe on the possibilities for the #Cowboys defensive line, with himself, Tank Lawrence, Everson Griffen, Aldon Smith, and more: "Oh, I think it'll be great. I think it's gonna be amazing."@wfaa | @wfaasports | #Cowboys— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) August 23, 2020
(Video courtesy of Dallas Cowboys) pic.twitter.com/FW6MEdRvBI
The Cowboys add these four to a group that already includes one of the most talented, complete defensive linemen in the NFL in DeMarcus Lawrence. Not to mention, they return Tyrone Crawford after missing nearly all of 2019 and get, what seems to be, a much improved Trysten Hill in year two.
This defensive line is going to cause problems for opposing offenses all season long, starting Sunday night. In theory, Dallas could come out with a defensive line of Griffen, Crawford, Smith and Lawrence on a pass-rush down. That’s about as good of a group as you’ll find in the entire league. Also, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has talked about using linebacker Jaylon Smith more in pass rush, adding another talented rusher to the mix.
The Rams will be the first team to feel the wrath of the Cowboys beefed up defensive line. Last season, Pro Football Focus ranked the Rams as the fourth-worst pass blocking offensive line in football. Despite Jared Goff only being sacked 22 times, the Rams’ offensive line allowed a lot of pressure. Look for Dallas to attack rookie right tackle Rob Havenstein, flipping Lawrence, Griffen and Smith around to have plenty of chances to matchup against him.
Defensive success starts on the defensive line, and the new-look Cowboys line is going to get out of the gates in a big way Sunday, recording four sacks.
3. CeeDee Lamb’s first NFL touchdown comes on a punt return
It’s still hard to believe that the CeeDee Lamb fell to the Cowboys in the draft. When you watch his wide variety of skill sets, you can’t help but get excited to see this guy take the field on Sunday. Lamb is going to announce his entrance to the NFL in a big way Sunday, but not just by catching passes.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Lamb has been fielding punts during practice this week, making it a good possibility he gets a chance to return one during game action on Sunday. When asked about the possibility, Lamb stated he’d be excited to get a shot.
“If I’m back there I’m definitely excited, and I feel like punt return is a part of my game,” he said. “And I’m definitely a punt returner. I feel confident about myself, and I’m excited to be back there on this next big stage the NFL has us on. I can’t speak enough volumes about it.”
CeeDee Lamb returns the punt, and gives a look back at the coverage team and shakes his head like "nah, man, you can't keep up with me."@wfaa | @wfaasports | #Cowboys | @_CeeDeeThree— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) August 21, 2020
(Video courtesy of Dallas Cowboys) pic.twitter.com/wz7yiSuIBi
Whenever he gets the football in his hands, Lamb has the electrifying ability to make anyone miss and get the ball in the end zone. Sunday night, the former Oklahoma Sooner will score his inaugural NFL touchdown, taking a Rams punt all the way back to the house.
What are your bold predictions for Sunday night? Let us know in the comments below.