The Cowboys travel out to SoFi Stadium to take on a Los Angeles Rams' team that is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2019 season. The Super Bowl LIII participants have undergone an extensive makeover this offseason but they're a talented bunch with enough star power on each side of the ball to re-emerge as playoff contenders. Let's take a look at the matchup:
Why the Rams will win?
The Rams will win if they are able to control the game with a rushing attack that gave the Cowboys problems in the 2018 playoffs. If the Rams' much-maligned offensive line is able to generate a consistent push at the line of scrimmage with quintet functioning like elephants in a parade, Malcolm Brown and Cam Akers will be able to find creases between the tackles as they waltz into the secondary. With the running game working and forcing Mike Nolan to commit more defenders to the box, the Rams could lean on their potent play-action passing game to generate explosive plays on the perimeter with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods taking advantage of an inexperienced defensive backfield. The Rams were the only team that had two wide receivers each record 90-plus catches and 1,000 yards in 2019. If Goff is able to get enough time to throw to Kupp or Woods against one-on-one coverage, the Rams are going to score a ton of points and put the Cowboys in "catch up" mode on the road.
Defensively, the Rams must take away Zeke Elliott and force Prescott to throw against the defense in obvious passing downs. If the Rams are able to ignore the Cowboys' running threat while utilizing Jalen Ramsey to neutralize Amari Cooper with a variety of bracket or double team tactics on the other side, they could force Prescott to lean on his secondary options (Blake Jarwin and CeeDee Lamb) to move the ball consistently. Although this approach is easier said than done, the only way to contain the Cowboys' high-powered offense is to force Prescott to lean on the team's complementary playmakers.
Why the Cowboys will win?
The Cowboys will win if the offense gets off to a fast start and forces the Rams to chase points from the start. Led by Ezekiel Elliott and a talented trio at wide receivers (Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb), the Cowboys have the personnel in place to counter any tactic thrown at them by Rams' new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. If the Rams utilize a "plus-one" front to load the box to contain Elliott, Cooper, Gallup, and Lamb could feast on the one-on-one match-ups in the secondary.
If the Rams opt to take away the Cowboys' wide receivers with two-deep coverage or a variety of roll zones, Elliott could hit his head on the goal post running through an undermanned defense. This would lead to a ball-control plan that keeps the Rams' high-powered offense on the sideline and creates anxiety for the Sean McVay and Co. as the run-centric approach reduces the total number of offensive possessions. With fewer opportunities, the Rams could fall into the trap of playing a drop back game without maintaining the offensive balance needed to slow down a potent Cowboys' pass rush.
Considering the decided advantage enjoyed by the Cowboys' defensive line, particularly on the edges with Demarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffen, Mike Nolan wants to face a Rams' offense that's in chase mode with a pair of vulnerable pass protectors on the edges in Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein. Without a dominant running game in place, the Cowboys' defensive line could set the tone for a big win on the road.