The Dallas Cowboys will be facing the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs for the ninth time in the two franchises history. They are 4-4 in the previous eight meetings with the Rams winning the last matchup 20-0 in 1986. The Cowboys will be looking to advance to the NFC championship game for the first time since 1996. The Rams are coming off of their bye week and will get running back Todd Gurley back. Gurley missed the last two games of the regular season with a knee injury.
Let’s take a look at three points of emphasis for the Cowboys if you are going to advance…
Containing Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald is arguably the best player in the NFL at any position, not just on defense. Donald finished the season with 20.5 sacks, which set the NFL record with most sacks by a defensive tackle. After performing well last week against Seattle, Connor Williams is expected to start again at left guard. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is known to move Donald around until he finds a favorable matchup. With Williams being a rookie, expect to see a lot of Donald lining up over Williams early until he proves he can hold up.
The Cowboys have allowed a lot of pressure this season, especially in the interior. But, Dak Prescott has a 76.0 passer rating when under pressure this season, which is 11th highest in the NFL. For comparison, the average passer rating when pressured in the NFL is 68.2.
The Rams have a lot of big names and high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, especially on the defensive line but they have not done a good job of stopping the run this season giving up 122 rushing yards per game, which ranked 23rd in the NFL.
Stop the Run, Force Goff To Beat You
The Cowboys number one focus Saturday night should be stopping Todd Gurley and the Rams running game. The Rams added C.J Anderson late in the season and he rushed for 167 yards and 132 yards while averaging seven yards a carry. The Rams run more play-action than any team in the NFL so when they are able to run the ball effectively it really opens up the receivers down the field. The Rams lost two games in December to the Bears and Eagles. In those two games, Gurley had 28 and 48 rushing yards. Jared Goff entered the month of December having thrown 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. In five December games he threw six touchdowns and six interceptions.
From Gil Brandt
Through the first 11 games of the season, Goff was the 3rd highest rated passer in the NFL. (113.5)In the final five weeks of the season, he ranked 25th. (74.8)
Jared Goff will be playing his 2nd career playoff game Saturday night. Goff completed 24-45 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in a game they lost 26-13 at home.
Efficiency On Offense
This is a point of emphasis every week for the Cowboys with the struggles they’ve had this season the red zone, but on the road, in the playoffs it becomes even more crucial to convert on your red zone opportunities. Against Seattle, they went 3-4 in the red zone. They will need another performance like that against the high powered Rams offense.
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