The Dallas Cowboys are 22/1 outsiders to win the Super Bowl and while they may not lift the trophy this year, they could give the Rams all sorts of problems says Kieran O'Connor...
"For the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott just won his second rushing title with 1,434 yards. Add to that, Elliott has posted five 100+ yard games in the his last eight. Dallas have won them all when he has got over this mark. Dallas will know that if they feed Zeke, they will be right in this."
Dallas Cowboys @ LA Rams
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
D is needed
Sometimes, to look forward you must look back. It would be wrong to try and predict any of the games of this weekend without looking at what we saw in Wildcard Weekend, a slate of games that went against many of the factors that lead to the regular season, being an offensive one.
After a 43-40 win for the Pats against the Chiefs in week 7, Kansas went on to share 105 points with the rams in week 12. With these and other similar results, the talk of the NFL has been that the league is beginning to imitate the College game and would be dominated by high tempo offenses boasting quarterbacks that can throw at will. The great minds of NFL commentary will have us believe that defences are no longer required to win championships, as the old saying goes. That was certainly not the case last weekend.
Defences were once again to the fore; only one quarterback, the Bears' Mitchell Trubisky, threw for over 300 yards last weekend and he will be watching the rest of the playoffs from his couch. Only one of the games went over on the spread and that was by half a point. Maybe the worst stat of all comes from the man that had the worst day.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson entered the third quarter on minus two yards passing after the Chargers completely shut him down. Why is this key to this game? Because the Cowboys have the highest rank defence left in the race for the Super Bowl. If a game comes down to who can stop the ball, the Cowboys have a huge chance at upsetting the offensively-minded LA Rams.
It's a running game
In this game, all eyes will be on the running backs as arguably two of the best go head-to-head. For LA, Todd Gurley has done what Todd Gurley always does: scored TDs. Gurley led the league with 21 TDS, stopping him getting into the end zone will be crucial to Dallas.
For the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott just won his second rushing title with 1,434 yards. Add to that, Elliott has posted five 100+ yard games in the his last eight. Dallas have won them all when he has got over this mark. Dallas will know that if they feed Zeke, they will be right in this.
The Rams have been excellent all season, their offence has been blistering teams. We have already mentioned Gurley but quarterback Jared Goff is even better than he was last year. Cooks and Woods are playing well at wide receiver. They lost Cooper Kupp during the season and that has hurt them in the run in but on their day, they can still destroy teams. So why am I worried about them? There are a few reasons, if you ask me.
First off, they're bad against the run; they give up over 120 rushing yards per game. If Elliott gets going on Saturday night, LA may not be able to stop him and that spells trouble.
Next up, Dallas has a fast and strong defence, probably the best left standing. Look for the Rams to try and use screen passes to Gurley to get him going. If these are not working out, that will make life difficult for them.
A final factor to consider is both the playoff record of the Rams and the venue. LA were a very exciting team last year but were one and done in the playoffs, losing in their own building to Atlanta. Before that, they had not been a playoff participant since 2004. In fact, since losing the Super Bowl to the Patriots in 2001, the Rams have not made it past this point of the play-offs.
Now, for the venue, the Rams are currently playing in the LA Memorial Coliseum before they move into their new home, the LA Stadium at Hollywood Park. That means that for now, they are effectively playing at a neutral venue. The Cowboys are one of the most supported teams in the NFL and it seems likely that there will be as many Dallas fans as LA in the ground. That takes the coveted home field advantage out of the equation.
Cowboys cause problems
This game is likely to come down to who runs the ball most effectively and if that does not go as well as expected, then which QB can muster up some magic. Goff looks the better at this as he is the better passer. The Rams will need him to perform to win. Dallas QB Dak Prescott is prone to make mistakes at time. Feeding Zeke will be key for the Cowboys. Expect Elliott to have a big day on the ground.
Dallas are 22/1 and LA are 4/1 for the Super Bowl, but I really don't see that much in this. The Rams have been excellent all year but the Cowboys finished the season strong and the Amari Cooper trade has meant Prescott finally has someone to throw to with confidence.
The Rams do look a solid team and will probably win the game but on a purely betting level the handicap looks high. The Cowboys, in form, with a strong defence and an excellent running game, with 7.5 points against a team that can't stop the run. I'll take that.