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Cowboys vs Rams: ‘How Puka Nacua fell so low in the draft is beyond me’

It is time to figure out who the Los Angeles Rams really are.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are past their bye and ready to hit the field again. They will do so this Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys are currently 6-point favorites in the game according to DraftKings Sportsbook, We spoke with a Rams expert at our sister site Turf Show Times to get the lowdown on the Rams.

Blogging The Boys: With a 3-4 record, what is the general feeling around the Rams? Playoffs, mock drafts, or somewhere in between?

Turf Show Times: I think the general feeling around this team is a little somewhere in between. With the way LA has played this season, I believe they would be a reasonably tough out if they made it into the playoffs. However, this Rams team is too inconsistent to make it to the postseason. While Los Angeles has been “remodeling” this season, they haven’t been blown out in any of their games as their four losses have come by a combined 26 points. They’ve been remarkably competitive and that is what I expected from them under Sean McVay. The reason I say this is an inconsistent team is that they have struggled to play a complete game. That wasn’t the case in their games against Seattle and Arizona. When they played the Colts, they were fortunate to escape with an overtime win after blowing a 23-0 lead. Then, LA has a tendency to go cold in the second half, especially true against the 49ers and Eagles. If the Rams and their young team can figure out how to play a full game, they would easily be a playoff team. Yet, playoff teams don’t lose to a crappy Steelers team as LA did in Week 7.

BTB: The Rams famously went ‘all-in’ for their Super Bowl season, but are 8-16 since. Does the fanbase give the team some leeway because they sacrificed salary cap space and draft resources to get that championship? In other words, is what’s happened since okay because they got that title?

TST: The Rams sacrificed their future with a Super Bowl title and that alone has given the team leeway. No one hands out high draft picks like Halloween candy without paying the price for it later. It was a memorable run that ended with a Lombardi Trophy so it worked out alright. I don’t think fans are okay with all the losing the team has done the last couple seasons but that’s what they should have expected. Most fans, myself included, had unrealistic expectations for how the 2022 season was going to go. The Rams were never meant to become a dynasty. They were going to be a flash in the pan and were a damn good one at that. LA suffered through a Super Bowl hangover and throw the injury bug into the mix and you had a recipe for disaster. Everything that has happened since the title will be accepted as long as the Rams show progress on the field. GM Les Snead had an excellent draft class and that is why the team has gradually improved on the field even if their record doesn’t reflect it.

BTB: Give us a general rundown on the Rams offense, especially newcomer Puka Nacua.

TST: Even though his stats aren’t impressive, Matthew Stafford has shown he can still play. In each of LA’s three wins, Stafford has displayed his leadership and toughness that this young Rams team desperately needs. He has a tendency to throw away games with bad interceptions but overall, he is doing what he can in leading this team to the best of his abilities. Running back Kyren Williams was having a breakout season up until he was put on IR. Oh yeah, and that Cooper Kupp guy hasn’t missed a beat, aside from his terrible showing against the Steelers. This group of pass catchers which wasn’t overly impressive on paper heading into the season has proven their worth, leading to Van Jefferson being traded to the Falcons. Although I wish more touches would be given to third-year wideout Tutu Atwell. He is a home run waiting to happen and I don’t think he’s being utilized very well in this offense.

What more can be said about Puka Nacua? He was hyped up after being drafted in the fifth round all throughout training camp and has certainly lived up to the hype. How he fell so low in the draft is beyond me. Each week it seems like Nacua is rewriting the record books and that is why his season has been so special. It’s been awe-inspiring from one moment to the next and I can’t wait to see how his NFL career unfolds. Nacua’s maturity and nose for the ball is what stands out most. He had his worst game as a pro in Week 6 with four catches for 26 yards and responded with a 154-yard effort the following week. There was plenty of talk about whether he would be cast aside once Kupp returned to the lineup and that hasn’t been the case. They’ve complemented each other well on the field which LA has to be thankful for after not having a proper WR2 behind Kupp in ‘22. Puka is my pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year but I’m sure that nod will go to C.J. Stroud as every NFL award is a quarterback award anymore. If voters saw what I’ve been seeing every week, Nacua would win it without question.

BTB: What about the Rams defense? What are the strengths and weaknesses there?

TST: The performance of the defense has been the most shocking part about this season. They were expected to be a bad defense and so far they’ve been middle of the pack to average. I’ll take it! Passing defense has been a major strength for the Rams as they rank 11th in the NFL and have allowed only four passing touchdowns all season, tied for least in the league with the Ravens and Texans. Attacking LA through the air is a difficult task but the Cowboys have the receivers to stretch the field against them. On the other hand, the pass rush and run defense have been subpar. If Dallas can dominate in the trenches, they should be able to run the ball down their throats. It’s also odd to think that a pass rush led by the great Aaron Donald isn’t a strength but that is life for LA this year. There are young studs in Kobie Turner and Byron Young who are decent at pressuring the QB but they have been unable to bring down the quarterback much. That is why I see the pass rush again being a non-factor against the Cowboys.

BTB: The Cowboys are currently 6-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Is that a fair line and how do you see the game playing out?

TST: That is absolutely a fair line as I mentioned above how the Rams have been in every game this season. Since there is an important matchup with the Eagles looming, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys overlooked this game in anticipation for the next one. Dallas has had that issue and I expect that to be reflected in this one early before they snap out of it after halftime. So the Rams will give the Cowboys a solid fight for a half but then I see their second half struggles rear their ugly head yet again. I also envision Micah Parsons posing a problem for a remodeled O-line. I expect the Cowboys to pull this game out by at least a touchdown.

Thanks for the knowledge, Turf Show Times.

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