Well, it turns out that this is not going to be the "Dak Is Back" Game after all. It has already been decided that Cowboys star quarterback Dak Prescott is getting closer to being game-ready again, but his injured thumb is still not completely a thumbs-up for playing time. So we'll go one more week with the Cooper Rush Show as the Cowboys head to Los Angeles to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Rams.
I'm not sure anyone has raised more eyebrows than the Cowboys have so far, winning all three games played without Prescott and finding a real gem in Rush. After a poor showing in Week 1 vs. the Buccaneers, they've played solid ball since then, beating the Bengals, Giants, and Commanders, while displaying a dominant defense. Perhaps the only bigger development in the NFL could be the way the Rams have struggled, coming off of winning the title in January. They got pummeled by Buffalo in the opener, notched a pair of nip-and-tuck wins over Atlanta and Arizona, and then got stuffed by the 49ers (24-9) this past Monday night.
Dallas (3-1) at Los Angeles (2-2)
Three Things to Watch
1. Keeping up with the Coopers
Unless you've been in the deep Brazilian rainforest this past month then you probably know that Cooper Rush has become the first Cowboys quarterback to ever begin his career with four straight wins as a starter. Three of those have been here in 2022 while Prescott has been out. Yet Dallas' offense has still been sputtering with just six touchdowns through four games, tied for the fewest in the NFL. On the Rams side, Cooper Kupp made a big comeback after a quiet Week 3 when he had just four catches against the Cardinals; but he followed it up with 14 catches for 122 yards vs. the 49ers. He is a valuable asset to Matthew Stafford, of course, but it is also vital that the Rams spread the love between their multiple weapons. For instance, new wideout Allen Robinson II signed in free agency and has just nine receptions so far. He and targets like Ben Skowronek and Kendall Blanton need to be more involved in the offensive game plan.
2. The defensive push
Both teams have really good defensive lines and blitz packages. Nobody gets to the quarterback better than the Cowboys, who are second in the NFL in sacks and third in QB pressures. Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence will be pinning their ears back in obvious passing downs, especially after seeing San Francisco post seven sacks and 12 QB hits on Stafford. Due to injuries up front, the Rams played that Monday night game with their second left guard, their third center, and their fourth right guard, so this is a patchwork O-line. On the other side, the Rams only have seven sacks on the season (25th in the NFL), but the Cowboys' offensive line is allowing a 27 percent pressure rate so far this season. Chances are this Rams front seven will be a big test despite coming off an outing where they only hit Jimmy Garoppolo a single time the entire game and did not register a sack. Again, this is a line that features Aaron Donald.
3. THE showdown of showdowns
There are a number of interesting one-on-ones that will help decide this game. But the best of them all will be the Cowboys' No. 1 wide receiver CeeDee Lamb going up against the Rams' Jalen Ramsey. How impressive was Ramsey against the 49ers? He wasn't targeted a single time during the entire game. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and Garoppolo avoided Ramsey like the plague. But if the Rams are smart they'll have him square off against Lamb, who posted six catches for 97 yards and a TD last Sunday against the Commanders, his second straight big game.
This is one of those games that will probably feel like a home game for the Cowboys, even though it is being played at SoFi Stadium, with half the crowd being taken up by supplanted fans of America's Team. But something tells me the Rush string of stunners will continue here in Tinseltown. Kinda makes sense that his remarkable story comes to an end here in Hollywood (if Dak DOES return in full next week). It's a Hollywood-type ending for this Clint Longley-esque phenom. But it's not because of Mr. Rush — I actually keep thinking about that rigorous Cowboys pass rush and the fact that the Rams' O-line has not fared well against other top defensive units in Buffalo and San Francisco. It stuns me that the Rams are actually favored in this one; they just aren't the same team as they were last year. At least not yet. This could be another 60 minutes of Mr. Stafford kissing the turf. And not in a good way.
Prediction: Cowboys 28, Rams 16
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
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