We are getting to the midpoint of the 2023 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys had their bye in Week 7, and are now ready to play the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon in Week 8. This is the time of year when playoff positioning really starts to take root. The Cowboys are entering a softer part of their schedule punctuated by one tough game against the Philadelphia Eagles. But that game is next week, the Cowboys must take care of business this week versus the Rams.
In this meeting of the two teams, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Cowboys as six-point favorites over the Rams. The Cowboys will be at home at AT&T Stadium where they have been played very well recently. The Rams are still struggling with their roster after they went all-in for a Super Bow win two years ago. The Cowboys are favorites, but the Cardinals game taught us once again that teams don’t win on paper.
Let’s take a quick look at the history of this matchup and some stats surrounding the game.
The Cowboys and the Rams have played each other 37 times, with nine of those games occurring in the playoffs. Dallas leads the regular-season meetings 15-13. The Rams hold the advantage in the playoff contests, 5-4. The Rams beat the Cowboys 30-22 in their last playoff encounter. The Cowboys won the last regular-season contest 22-10 last year.
As mentioned above, the Cowboys have been playing very well at home recently. They are currently on a 10-game winning streak at AT&T Stadium, which is the longest active streak for home wins in the NFL.
In the ‘no-duh’ category of stats, Dallas is 4-0 when they hold the lead at halftime. When they don’t, they are 0-2. We’ve noted many times that this Cowboys team is a front-runner and needs to start fast or they just don’t seem built for the come-from-behind win. Some of that stems from the way the offense is being called, which is a point of emphasis for fans coming out of the bye. We’ll see if it turns out to be a point of emphasis for Mike McCarthy. Incidentally, the Cowboys are 12-1 in their last 13 games when leading at halftime.
Mike McCarthy’s offense has definitely taken a lot of criticism this season, but there are actually some stats where they are doing quite well. Dallas is tied for first in the NFL with 19 10-play drives. That shows they are an offense that can move the chains. They are fourth in the league in converting third downs (47.7%), another indicator they can move the ball. Of course, as we all know, it’s finishing those drives with touchdowns that has been a major issue.
Those redzone issues are not good overall, but they have been a boon for rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey. He’s been perfect on his first 16 career field goal attempts so far, only the sixth kicker in history to accomplish that. He needs two more successful kicks without a miss to tie the record of 18 straight makes to start a career.
With the offensive issues hampering Dallas, the defense, for the most part, has held them in games. They are fourth in the league for scoring defense, giving up an average of 16.7 points per game. They are also helping Dallas to a tie for second in the NFL for turnover differential at +6.
They will need that defense this week as Rams QB Matthew Stafford has 17 passing plays of 20+ yards this season which is tied for third overall. On the flip side, the Cowboys defense has limited opponents to seven passing plays of 20+ yards which is tied for the second-fewest in the NFL. Dallas also allows only 177 net passing yards per game, but that will surely be tested by Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua.
Part of the reason Dallas’ secondary is playing well, even with the Trevon Diggs’ injury, is the continued emergence of DaRon Bland. He only allows a 22.7 passer rating when targeted which is third best among corners with enough snaps in coverage to qualify.
On the Cowboys offense, CeeDee Lamb is the unquestioned star. He needs six more receptions to reach 300 for his career, and he would be the fastest to reach that mark in Cowboys history. He is also short of 4,000 yards by 129 yards. He will become the second-fastest Cowboys receiver to reach that mark, behind only Bob Hayes. On the year, Lamb has caught 81% of his targets, second among qualifying NFL receivers this year.
Brandin Cooks had his best game as a Cowboy last week versus the Chargers. Last year while with Houston, he caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. A repeat performance would be welcomed. But it won’t be easy, the Rams have not allowed a 100+ passer rating so far this season.
That puts the onus on Dak Prescott to break though, and last game he performed as well as he has all season. His 18-yard touchdown run was his first of the season. If he can get another one this week, it will be the first time since 2019 he has had back-to-back rushing touchdowns in games. If the Rams choose to blitz Prescott, they might regret it. He has a 72.2% completion rate, good for third in the NFL, when teams rush five or more.
Team comparison stats:
- Scoring Avg. (NFL rank): Cowboys 25.7 (5) - Rams 22.1 (16)
- Opp. Scoring Avg. (NFL rank): Cowboys 16.7 (4) - Rams 20.1 (14t)
- Rushing Off. (NFL rank): Cowboys 119.7 (10) - Rams 112.0 (15)
- Passing Off. (NFL rank): Cowboys 210.2 (20) - Rams 253.1 (7)
- Rushing Def. (NFL rank): Cowboys 111.7 (18) - Rams 117.0 (20)
- Passing Def. (NFL rank): Cowboys 177.0 (3) - Rams 209.0 (11)