NFL 2017 Week 4: Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys preview and prediction

The Rams and Cowboys enter Week 4 2-1, will the Cowboys rediscover their dominance from last season? Or will LA's hot start continue?

In an epic Thursday night showdown, the LA Rams were able to defeat divisional counterpart San Francisco 41-39 in a nail biter. QB Jared Goff looked impressive, as he threw for 292 yards and three TDs. RB Todd Gurley added three TDs on the night as well, including two rushing and one receiving. The defense struggled as the game went on and some late miscues by LA allowed San Fran to crawl back into it, but it wasn’t enough, as Sean McVay and the Rams moved to 2-1.

Dallas was able to bounce back from their dreadful Week 2 performance, as they defeated the Arizona Cardinals 28-17 on the road in a Monday night game. The game started slow for both sides, but Dallas QB Dak Prescott took over the game after his 2nd quarter TD run that sparked the Cowboys team. He followed that run up with two TD passes to WRs Dez Bryant and Brice Butler in the second half, while the defense was able to disrupt the Cardinals offense enough to help secure their victory.

Rams defensive woes

As impressive as the LA offense has been, their defense has been equally as concerning. They rank 22nd in total defense, 28th against the run, and are giving up 25 points per game. What makes this so concerning is when considering the offenses they faced in the first three weeks, specifically referencing the Colts and 49ers. With better competition on the horizon, DC Wade Phillips must find a way to improve the performance this talent-laced unit.

DeMarcus Lawrence

How impressive has this young man been? Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence has taken the NFL by storm through the first three weeks, racking up a league-leading 6.5 sacks. This was an area of concern for the Cowboys going into the season, but has seemingly been solved by Lawrence’s performance thus far. Look for Lawrence to remain a big factor in this game, as the LA offensive line will have their hands full.

Ball control

In 2016, Dallas was one of the best teams in the league at controlling the time of possession, averaging 31:23 per game. This ranked 3rd overall, and more importantly allowed their offense to cover up for many of their defense’s flaws. Through the first three games, Dallas has dropped to 28th in the league, averaging 28:03 of time of possession per game. Their 3rd down efficiency has also dropped from 2016, going from a 42.3% conversion rate to 34.2% this season. It will be vital for Dallas to improve in both of these categories going forward.

Cowboys LB Sean Lee vs Rams RB Todd Gurley

Rams RB Todd Gurley has quickly made everyone forget about his woeful sophomore season. One could probably credit this to a coaching change, and Gurley looks like one of the premier RBs in the NFL, rushing for 241 yards and four TDs on the ground through three weeks. Gurley has also added an additional 140 yards and two TDs catching the ball out of the backfield. He will face a stiff test this week, going up against the unheralded leader of the Dallas defense, LB Sean Lee. Lee leads Dallas with 25 tackles, and we should expect him to be all over the field making plays against Gurley on Sunday. This is certainly a matchup to watch.

Fantasy Football Tip: Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott

RB Ezekiel Elliott could end up having a huge day on the ground for Dallas this Sunday. The Rams rank 28th in the NFL against the run, which is what the Cowboys do best. Elliott is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry thus far, while the offensive line hasn’t been as dominant, but look for OC Scott Linehan to make a concerted effort to establish the run early and often. This will allow Dallas to control time of possession and get Elliott back on track, making him a valuable asset in all fantasy formats this week.

Betting Tip: Dallas (-6)

Dallas will be a six-point favorite at home this Sunday, against a Rams team who many think are legitimate playoff contenders. LA (+6) will most likely be the popular bet on this spread, but I actually like Dallas here. The Rams defense is concerning, which leads me to believe that the Dallas offense will be able to dominate them throughout the game. Expect Dallas jump out to an early lead and continue to attack the Rams via the ground game, making it hard for the LA offense to get enough possessions in this game to be able to cover. Take Dallas (-6) in this one.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 30-17 LA Rams

The LA Rams have gotten off to an impressive start in their young season, and will have an opportunity this Sunday to prove to the rest of the doubters on exactly how good they are.

If they can come into Dallas and leave with a victory, it could solidify their legitimacy. However, I remain as one of the doubters, and believe that Dallas should have an easy time on Sunday pulling out a win. The Rams victories have come against two of the worst teams in the league, and in those victories, QB Jared Goff hasn’t faced a legitimate pass rush or had to bring his team from behind.

The Cowboys offense will physically wear down the Rams defense throughout the game, controlling the clock and keeping the Dallas defense fresh. RB Ezekiel Elliott will have a big night and expect the NFL sack leader, Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence, to continue his tear getting to the QB. Dallas wins convincingly, 30-17.

  1. Who will win this matchup? VOTE BELOW!

    1. Los Angeles Rams
    2. Dallas Cowboys
    12 votes
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