The Dallas Cowboys are significant underdogs in their second-round matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, but it shouldn’t be a surprise if the NFC East champs pull off the upset. After winning on Wild-Card Weekend, Dak Prescott and Co. have a real shot to reach the conference championship game.
Here are three reasons why the Cowboys can beat the Rams in the 2019 NFL divisional playoffs:
Defense Still Matters
The 2018 NFL season was highlighted by offense, most notably in the Rams’ historic 54-51 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on “Monday Night Football” in Week 11. That doesn’t mean you can’t still win with defense, which teams like the Cowboys proved throughout the year. Dallas probably has the best defense in the playoffs with the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears losing on Wild-Card Weekend, and the unit gives Dallas a real chance to win in Los Angeles.
It isn’t just that the Cowboys finished the season seventh in total defense and sixth in points allowed. Dallas rose to the occasion against their toughest challenges, and the team might face their greatest test when they take on a Rams’ offense that led the NFC in total points and yards. The Cowboys already held the New Orleans Saints to 10 points in an upset victory, and they didn’t surrender 30 points in a game until the meaningless regular-season finale.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 7, 2019
Jared Goff’s December
When the Rams lost just one game in the first three months of the season, it was in large part because their starting quarterback was playing like an MVP candidate. Goff’s numbers fell off a cliff in the final month, and Los Angeles could be in big trouble if his performance in December carries over to the playoffs.
Goff played well in the final two games as the Rams beat up on the teams with the NFL’s two worst records. He was terrible in his last two contests against actual competition, posting passer ratings of 19.1 and 75.9 in losses to Chicago and Philadelphia. The quarterback threw no touchdowns and five interceptions with a meager 5.35 yards per attempt. Goff wasn’t even that good in the Rams’ Week 13 win in Detroit as he posted 207 passing yards and a 68.6 6 paser rating. He had a 77.9 rating when Los Angeles was upset at home last season in his only career playoff game.
Dallas’ Dominant Second Half
The Rams were a better team than the Cowboys in the regular season, winning three more games and clinching the NFC West title in Week 13. Dallas, however, played better in the second half of the year, and they are carrying plenty of momentum in the playoffs.
Including their wild-card win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Cowboys are 8-1 in their last nine games. Their only loss during that stretch came on the road to the Indianapolis Colts, who are the only team that’s been hotter than Dallas. The Cowboys had three wins over playoff teams in the final eight weeks of the regular season, which is one more than the Rams recorded in that time. L.A. went 8-0 in the first half, dominating opponents with a plus-109 point differential. Los Angeles went 5-3 in the second half with a plus-34 point differential.
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys scrambles against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a game at AT&T Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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