The 3-1 Cowboys, winners of three straight and undefeated since Cooper Rush took over under center, travel to Los Angeles to take on the 2-2 Rams, who are playing this game on a short week after getting manhandled on Monday Night Football. Yet Dallas is the underdog in this one, something that head coach Mike McCarthy had something to say about:
This was an awesome quote from Mike McCarthy.— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) October 6, 2022
(via @dallascowboys) https://t.co/0THlNGW7ao pic.twitter.com/1Jpgjwy6Ej
It’ll be a tall order for the Cowboys to back up their coach’s words, even if this road trip may end up feeling more like a home game. The Rams, who won the Super Bowl last year, have been slow out of the gates so far this season, but it’s their still-very-talented roster that’s got oddsmakers picking them this week. Do our writers feel the same?
When Los Angeles has the ball
Attack the offensive line
The Rams offense has looked downright putrid this season. Head coach Sean McVay has always built his offense off a strong running game, but Los Angeles is 19th in rushing DVOA. It’s gotten so bad that McVay has seemingly given up on it, as the Rams have the second least rushing attempts on the year. Matthew Stafford, who led the league in interceptions last year, is doing so again this year and is also second in sacks taken.
All of these problems stem from an offensive line that’s equal parts inexperienced and banged up. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have excelled so far this season in making opposing offensive lines look very bad. They’re third in the league in sacks and second in pressure rate. One area to watch, though, is the Rams’ outside running game; despite running to the left at a very high rate, the Rams have the least adjusted line yards on those carries this year. Meanwhile, Dallas has seen the third highest amount of those types of runs and have allowed the eighth most adjusted line yards on those runs.
It stands to reason that the Cowboys should once again be able to create pressure and force Stafford into either throwing picks or taking sacks, two of his favorite things to do this year. But the question remains whether a porous run defense or an anemic rushing attack can win the day. If Dallas can win across the board in the trenches, they can have another great defensive performance.
When Dallas has the ball
Avoid Aaron Donald
It might seem elementary, but Aaron Donald is a one-man wrecking crew and must be avoided at all costs. That’s easier said than done, and Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris does a great job of moving Donald around the defensive line. Los Angeles is third in run defense DVOA, but most of their rush yardage allowed has come on runs to the opposite side of Donald.
Similarly, the Rams defense has been pretty one-note in the pass rush game too. Donald has 16 pressures (tied for 11th most in the league), which is twice as many as the next man on the team. And while the Rams are blitzing at the fifth highest rate, no defense has a lower pressure rate than them. They’ve essentially been Donald or bust so far this year.
Donald is not someone who can be contained, especially with Jason Peters likely not playing in this one. So Kellen Moore will need to craft his scheme around limiting Donald’s opportunities for the big play. If he can do that, the offense can survive.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
Tom Ryle (2-2):
The Cowboys come into this game as underdogs, but seem to be on a slow but steady trend upward. The Rams were a mess against the 49ers. While you have to consider the quality of the opposition, the issues the Rams are having on offense are independent of who they face.
Matthew Stafford has real issues with his elbow and shoulder and looks like a very different quarterback compared to last year. The offensive line is beaten up. The run game has little impact. This seems tailor made for the Dallas D to dictate the outcome of the game.
I figure it won’t be easy, but think Dallas wins by something like 20-16.
Tony Catalina (2-2):
Let me start by saying, whatever happens Sunday, Cooper Rush has already done an amazing job. The Cowboys are 3-1 and squarely in the middle of everything without having their star QB for virtually any of it. Rush has done what he has needed to do, nothing more, nothing less and it is truly a commendable job.
This Rams game was and is going to be tough no matter who is under center. The Super Bowl champions are loaded with talent and even though they have had their issues it’s going to take a high quality of play from this Cowboys team to win on Sunday. I think eventually all good things come to an end and I think in what will be Rush’s last start before a Dak return the Cowboys will drop to 3-2.
Cowboys lose, 23-13.
Matt Holleran (1-3):
We’re going to find out a lot about the Cowboys this Sunday. While the Rams haven’t looked like the championship-caliber team they were last season, they still have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
I see the Dallas defense getting some pressure on Matt Stafford and being able to hold Los Angeles’s offense in check, but I just don’t think the Cowboys offense will be able to do their part. Dallas hangs in till the end, but turns the ball over late with a chance to win the game.
Give me the Rams, 21-16.
Brandon Loree (3-1):
The Cowboys are catching the Rams at the right time. They are struggling to stay healthy, their run game is a disaster, and their offensive line is vulnerable at every position. Run defense should not be a problem for Dallas this week because the Rams are at the bottom of the NFL, averaging just 68.5 rushing yards per game. The Texans, Colts, and Jets are running the ball better. That says something.
If Cooper Rush gets to start again this week, he has to follow the same blueprint from all the other wins for Dallas. Protect the ball. If the Cowboys can run the ball effectively and Rush can make big throws downfield, as we saw against the Commanders, there is no way Dallas should lose this game.
The Cowboys keep rolling before they meet the Eagles and win this game 27-13.
Matthew Arizzi (2-2):
If you told me pre-season that Cooper Rush would be starting with the Cowboys heading into Los Angeles to play the Super Bowl defending Rams, I’d be pessimistic. However, Matthew Stafford seems to turn the ball over at will and the Cowboys defense may be the very best in the National Football League.
Coming off a loss, the Rams do scare me. Another thing that scares me is some of the throws Rush made last week, which were negated by penalties, but the decision making was off. I like the Cowboys to cover the spread, but lose in a close battle of the defenses. If the Cowboys win the turnover battle, though, this score very well may flip.
Aidan Davis (2-2):
Sunday could go one of two ways. On one hand, the Cowboys defense could completely shut down a struggling Rams offense. Outside of Cooper Kupp, there are not enough weapons on this team to overwhelm a top-five defense. In this scenario, the game would play out similarly to the Bengals upset, where the Cowboys offense squeaks out just enough points as the defense carries them to another victory.
But on the other hand, fans could see Cooper Rush truly struggle. Rush has been a solid backup quarterback these last three weeks, but that is exactly the type of player he is, a backup. There is no evidence to suggest he can win a shootout and keep up with Matt Stafford if the Rams offense finds life. While the Rams secondary hasn’t been great this season, neither has Cooper Rush. In this scenario, the “Rush should remain the starter” movement dies a quick death. I am going with the latter; Stafford shows signs of life and the Cowboys offense isn’t able to keep up.
Rams win, 24 to 13.
Mike Poland (3-0):
The Rams lack offensive weapons beyond Cooper Kupp, and the fact they rank 29th in plays of 10+ yards is testament to how bad their running game is right now. The Rams offensive line is injured and lacking on run and pass blocking. more than that, the Rams offensive line has allowed 7 sacks in a game twice this season already, while the Cowboys defense has 5 sacks in two games.
Matt Stafford is playing no where near to the level he was last season. And the defensive backs for the Rams are beaten up and struggling beyond what they have in Jalen Ramsey. The Cowboys are playing with confidence and at SoFi, so that pretty much makes this a home game for Dallas.
Dallas win 24-14.
Paul Stewart (2-0):
It really boils down to the Cowboys defence, with Matthew Stafford tied second for being sacked in the NFL and the rushing offense ranked 30th. Only concern is with Aaron Donald and our run blocking, but I think the Cowboys will do enough offensively to get the win. Also the massive Cowboys presence in California will be out in force making as close to home game will help.
Cowboys win 24-17.
The Rams have yet to put up over 20 points in each of their last two games and I expect that streak to move to three after facing a red-hot Dallas defense. A defense still learning how to get turnovers, as Matthew Stafford comes off a one interception and zero touchdown performance against the 49ers.
I’m not sure who’s defense is better at this point into the season, but Sunday’s game will tell a lot about of how the Cowboys compare to other top defenses in the league. Quarterback side, Cooper Rush yet again does enough to keep his team 5-1 and rolling on a win-streak.
Cowboys 24 Rams 14.
Brian Martin (3-1):
Matthew Stafford and Company are out of sync a bit offensively and playing with a patchworked offensive line. Considering how well the Dallas Cowboys are playing defensively right now that should tilt this Week 5 matchup in the Cowboys favor. While the Los Angeles Rams have gotten better of the Cowboys here recently, I’m predicting just the opposite is true this week.
Cowboys win, 23-17.
RJ Ochoa (2-2):
Like many other Cowboys fans I allowed myself to dream on Monday night as the 49ers handled the Rams about the Dallas Cowboys doing the same. As the days have gone on I have talked myself more into it.
Matthew Stafford is in a bad place and Trevon Diggs has grown into the type of corner that can effectively neutralize somebody like Cooper Kupp. I can’t believe that I believe it, but the Dallas Cowboys are going to win this game.
Cowboys win, 23-20. Party.
David Howman (4-0):
The Rams have definitely looked like a team in the midst of a Super Bowl hangover, but I think they’re well positioned to sober up against the Cowboys. They have a great run defense and should be able to finally see success in the running game against a pretty porous Dallas run defense.
I see this being a relatively low scoring game for much of the afternoon. I’m going to predict another Cooper Rush fourth quarter drive to tie things up late, only for Matthew Stafford to one-up him and set up a Rams win on a last second field goal.
Rams win, 23-20.