Straight Outta ’16



COWBOYS: I didn’t think they’d make it here because that was a tough battle with the Seattle Seahawks. I can admit I learned something about them after Saturday night. They’re a team that will scrap until the final whistle. When I look back at the highlights of that game on Saturday, they played smash-mouth football and they were more physical than the Seahawks which propelled them to the victory. I saw a lot of the same defensive looks they ran against the Saints to snap their winning streak back in November which was a base look up front with a lot of uncontested schemes to confuse Russell Wilson and pressure him to throw him off his game. Let’s talk about Jason Garrett now. Again, you can bash him all you want for how he played Dak Prescott in that season finale against the New York Giants because teams who normally have everything clinched and locked up are known to rest their starters. Jason didn’t do that with Dak, he ends up having a big game to close out the regular season. In the wild card round, he stepped it up again and I’ve been impressed with his game as of late because he’s trusting his arm, the receivers around him and when he’s making plays from the pocket, it takes pressure off Zeke along with teams being fooled off the plat action. Dak is also mobile with his feet to extend plays so he can move the ball to get some additional yards. I can’t say enough about their defense. They’ve been the backbone of this team throughout the year with playmakers in the front seven such as DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory (who’s had his head on straight) and the two young linebackers, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. It’s amazing where the Cowboys were early in the year, they get hot and take over the NFC East, win the division for the second time in three seasons and sit a game away from the NFC Championship game. To advance, they will travel to California to take on another NFC West team.

RAMS: It’s been quite the year for them. This all started when they had a busy off-season. First, they needed a true number one wide receiver to give Jared Goff. You can check that off the list after they decided to acquire Brandin Cooks from the New England Patriots. Even before that deal, they were able to pull off a trade with the Chiefs for Marcus Peters and free agent cornerback Aqib Talib signed with the team to improve their secondary. They bolstered the defense by adding Ndamukong Suh to the roster. At one point during the regular season, I thought the Los Angeles Rams were going to run away with the NFC and clinch the best the record in the conference with the way they started winning their first eight games. They did hit a few rough patches during the season as every team does. They lost Cooper Kupp to a torn ACL following a win over the Seattle Seahawks, they lost two games in a row in December to the Bears and Eagles, but here they are at 13-3 with the two seed in the conference hosting another home playoff game for the second straight year. This offense is one of the three best units in the league as they finished the regular season second in the NFL averaging 32.9 points per game. Sean McVay has done an excellent job with this offense. As hyped up as their defense was, they let me down big time. They struggle to stop the run and when you neutralize and double up Aaron Donald, they don’t have another guy to step up and take over. The Rams will look to win their first playoff game in 14 years on Saturday.

COWBOYS PLAYER TO WATCH: Antwaun Woods– He got the opportunity to start this year on the Cowboys defensive line and never looked back. Most defensive tackles have height on them, he doesn’t but to me, that mean absolutely nothing. He has a quick release off the snap, he’s active with his hands and he plays with a low center of gravity.

RAMS PLAYER TO WATCH: Josh Reynolds– He’s become the third receiver that they’ve really missed since the injury to Kupp. He’s that chain mover over the middle of the field that can get you the additional yards you need. He’s quick off the line, he has good speed to get open and he makes those catches on third down to convert the chains.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Well this is an interesting one. It features the two best running backs in the league right now. Which guy would you take if you’re building a team right now? Todd Gurley or Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys ran the football so efficiently against the Seahawks last week. The Rams were ranked 23rd in stopping the run. The offensive line must work early on to keep Aaron Donald from ruining their game plan throughout the night. It will also be key for Dak to connect on his passes off the play-action. Let’s be honest here. Jared Goff hasn’t been the same receiver since Kupp went down. How healthy is Gurley? That’s the biggest question mark. Goff will need to be big time under the lights in this one.