For the third straight season, the Dallas Cowboys will be playing at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. They played the first-ever game at SoFi when they lost to the Los Angeles Rams in 2020, but then won last year against the Los Angeles Chargers. Coincidentally enough, the score of both of those games was 20-17.
The Cowboys are hoping to leave SoFi with two straight wins at that beautiful stadium and four straight overall in 2022. It would also make for a perfect 2-0 record against last year’s Super Bowl participants. For that to happen, the Cowboys need to string together another strong performance with contribution from around the horn. Here are five things to look for when the Cowboys face off against the Rams.
1. Watch out for the game’s best defensive player!
He’s not your prototypical defensive lineman. In fact, he can attack you from all over. This freak of an athlete is a matchup nightmare for anyone lining up across from him. When he steps on the field people can’t stop talking about him because he’s guaranteed to be a game-wrecker. Of course, I’m talking about Micah Parsons.
Yes, we know Aaron Donald is a remarkable player and he fits all those things above, but let’s remember that there is a new sheriff in town and he doesn’t like to be second-guessed. Parsons is obliterating offensive lines as opposing teams task themselves with trying to not let him blow up the backfield. It usually consists of double-teams and running schemes designed to move away from him, but that has left a lot of good eats for others in the process.
With the problems the Rams are having along the offensive line, this is a favorable matchup for Parsons and his pride of pass rushers. Matthew Stafford has been sacked 16 times so far this season, tying him for second-most. And considering the Cowboys defense is second in the league themselves at getting sacks, it could be an eventful day for the Rams' veteran quarterback. Which brings us to...
2. Which Stafford will we get?
The Rams went all-in with Stafford last season when they gave up three premium draft picks to get him, including two first-rounders. Then, they re-upped on him this offseason by signing him to a four-year, $160 million extension. Make no mistake about it, he’s their guy!
While Stafford has already produced dividends in the form of a Super Bowl victory last season, he is not off to the greatest start in 2022. He actually has more interceptions (6) this season than he does touchdowns (4). This is not a good sign because when Stafford doesn’t play well, the Rams don’t win football games. For example, since joining Los Angeles a year ago, the Rams are 13-1 when he has a QB rating of 95 or greater, but they are 1-6 when he’s under 95.
Clearly, good quarterback play is essential for any team, but the Rams aren’t so good that they can withstand games where Stafford is just throwing balls up for grabs. His Jekyll-n-Hyde ratio is two to two this year which correlates exactly with their record, so if Stafford is not throwing some good balls on Sunday, the Cowboys stand a great chance to win this game.
3. No need to challenge Ramsey
It’s great to see CeeDee Lamb come alive these past two games, but don’t expect him to continue trending up this weekend. On Sunday, he draws a very talented corner in Jalen Ramsey, and while it’s fun to see the Rams corner on the wrong side of big plays, those opportunities don’t come often.
The Cowboys would be better served to go after the Rams' more vulnerable cornerbacks like rookie Derion Kendrick. With Michael Gallup having a game under his belt, expect him to have a larger role this week. And we should never forget about Noah Brown even though opposing defenses often do. Finding Lamb in the end zone is a treat we’d all love to enjoy, but there are easier fish to fry in the Rams' secondary and Cooper Rush should have his sights set on them.
4. Kontain Kupp
Last week, the Cowboys faced a Commanders team that struggled to run the ball entering the game but still found ways to grind out yards. Expect this Rams offense who is fourth-worst at rushing (3.9 yards per attempt) to find ways as well. Teams have found ways to exploit the Cowboys' over-aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage and turn them into good running plays.
Expect the Rams to also take a different approach via the short pass attack method. With the Rams' star receiver Cooper Kupp so good at gaining extra yards after the catch, don’t be surprised if they feed him with a lot of short underneath stuff and quick-pass plays.
5. Let Pollard dance
The Rams shouldn’t be the only team looking to maximize the YAC ability on Sunday. We saw on Monday night that unless you’re a fan running on the field celebrating a gender reveal, the Rams weren’t the greatest at tackling. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has trouble tackling Deebo Samuel, but the Rams' secondary just weren’t doing much to help out.
The Cowboys need to work to get their playmakers in space. Once they get past Donald and Bobby Wagner, small gains can turn into big games. Players like Tony Pollard and even KaVontae Turpin could be problems if the Cowboys can find ways to get them out in the open field. They might have to crack a few eggs to make this omelet, but some clever blocking schemes and misdirection plays could end up going the distance.
What will you be watching on Sunday?