Will the Cowboys earn their way into the NFC title game for the first time in over 20 years? To do so, they’ll have to get past the No. 2 seed L.A. Rams on the road this Saturday night.
Which team will advance? The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their ‘gut feelings’ for the 7:15 p.m. (Central) divisional-round matchup at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum:
Lindsay Draper: The biggest thing that scares me about this matchup is how squeaky clean the Rams’ injury report looked this week. Other than that? Yeah, logic says that rest is best in the playoffs after a grueling season. But being in this locker room, with these guys, I am honestly glad they’re the ones who have been playing these past two weeks! There is momentum. There is routine. There is tunnel vision. No lulls or laying around or distractions. They’ve kept humming seamlessly from the regular season to the postseason. With the NFC Championship in sight, I know the nagging and irritating injuries will be ignored with adrenaline. Picking the Cowboys in a ‘home game for no one.’ Fans show up and show out; Dak Prescott continues to deliver in the clutch situations.
Rob Phillips: This is a terrific matchup between teams with talent across their respective rosters. The Rams’ defensive front is a challenge, no question, but the Cowboys have shown all season that their line can disrupt quarterbacks, too. The best example is the job they did affecting Drew Brees in that November victory over the Saints. The Rams are right with New Orleans in terms of explosiveness on offense. My gut says this is might be more of a defensive struggle than a track meet, and the Cowboys have won a bunch of grind-it-out games this season. I think that style favors them, and because of that, I believe they’ll advance to the conference title game.
David Helman: Run the football, play good defense, and you can win a lot of games in this league. I know the Cowboys will do one of those things. Can they do the other one? It’s easy to fixate on the Rams’ struggles over the last month of the season, but this is still a unit that was among the best in the league for most of the season. I don’t like the Cowboys’ chances if they allow more than 31 points, and the Rams are averaging 33 per game. Still, this feels like a favorable matchup. I’m calling for the Cowboys to run for 200 yards as a team, and if Dak Prescott can take care of the football, that gives them a heck of a chance to win the game. If the Dallas front seven can slow down Todd Gurley, I don’t trust Jared Goff to carry this thing on his own. In front of a crowd full of Cowboys fans, the Cowboys’ special teams will make a game-changing play, and Goff will make a costly mistake in crunch time. It all amounts to a nerve-wracking 30-28 Cowboys win — but a win all the same.
Nick Eatman: I think there’s a perception that the Cowboys are the hot team, and the Rams limped (literally with Todd Gurley) to the finish line. And that the bye week didn’t work for Dallas in 2014 or 2007 so it’ll probably not work for the Rams. And this is such a better matchup for the Cowboys than the Saints, so why not pick Dallas? But, that’s not really why I’m going with the Cowboys here. I don’t even know if they’re a better team but I just think it’s coming together right now for them. That double-doink kick just seemed fitting to put the Cowboys back in Los Angeles once again. Ahhh, the storylines. Tavon coming home. Wade Phillips’ defense against Garrett and this offense. Tyron Smith and Antwaun Woods back to LA. Or the Cowboys started out camp in Oxnard and now they’re here. At the end of the night, the Cowboys will be moving on because the defense got after Goff, Zeke was a beast and the O-line figured out a way to slow those two guys down up front. Trust me when I say that’s harder to pick than you think, considering this is my 20th year with the team and the NFC Championship Game has escaped me. But give me Dallas, 27-23.
Mickey Spagnola: Now it’s the NFC divisional round of the playoffs, this one against the 13-3 Los Angeles Rams, and at this point you had better have a pretty strong gut. And when the Cowboys win this game 26-24, yep, another two-pointer after that one-pointer to conclude the 2018 regular season, the Cowboys should print out a commemorative coin that states, In Defense We Trust. Because if the Cowboys are to win this game the defense must shut down the NFL’s second ranked offense – second-ranked scoring offense, too – just the way the Bears did when beating the Rams, 15-6, though that game was in Chicago; and the way the Eagles did somewhat, beating the Rams, 30-23, that one in LA. Hard to outscore the Rams in a track meet, as the Seahawks found out twice, and so did Kansas City and San Francisco, all scoring at least 31 points – the Chiefs 51 – yet all losing just the same. Only the Saints were able to outscore the Rams in a score-fest, but needed 45 to do so. Better get out your faux picket fences.
Bryan Broaddus: Not many folks around the nation giving the Cowboys much of a chance to win this game against the Rams. That’s okay because there are 46 guys who are going to dress for that game on Saturday who really don’t care what everyone thinks about them. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, this club has been playing meaningful games since that loss to Tennessee on the first Monday of November. It’s hard to pick against a quarterback that is playing with the confidence that Dak Prescott has right now. In two playoff games he has gone toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson all while living to tell about it. Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard come up with the right game plan while Prescott does his thing. Cowboys with a gutsy win, 27-20.