St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys: Preview and Prediction

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St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys: Preview and Prediction
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Maybe this is just what DeMarco Murray needs. Murray has struggled ever since that hot streak during the second half of his rookie season in 2011 and has really run into problems early this season. But let's not forget that when the former third-round pick ran for a team single-game record 253 yards that season, it came against the same St. Louis Rams team the 'Boys will be facing Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

A lot changes in the NFL in two years, but per David Helman of DallasCowboys.com, the Cowboys seem to realize that they need to get the ground game going in order to start stringing wins together consistently. If the Rams can once again serve as a springboard, it could be a game-changer. 

Here's a final preview of Sunday's matchup from Dallas' perspective, along with a prediction.

 

What Dallas must do to win, offensive edition

Establish some freakin' balance. Sometimes, offensive balance is overrated, but St. Louis had the highest defensive sack percentage in the league last year and is much more beatable on the ground than through the air. If the 'Boys become one-dimensional Sunday, Tony Romo could be in big trouble.  

 

What Dallas must do to win, defensive edition

Exactly what it did against Kansas City. The D wasn't the problem in Week 2, and the Rams are probably a little less potent on offense. Tavon Austin is coming off a two-touchdown game, though, and Sam Bradford is off to a nice start. So long as the Cowboys don't allow any big plays, they'll be fine. 

 

Five most important non-quarterbacks

DeMarcus Ware: It appears Anthony Spencer is still less than 100 percent, Morris Claiborne has struggled and the secondary is still a liability in general. Against an offensive line that hasn't given up a sack since Week 15 of last season, Ware will have to be special.

Least sacks allowed, 2013
Sacks Sack %
1. St. Louis Rams 0 0.0
2. Buffalo Bills 1 1.5
2. Chicago Bears 1 1.4

Pro Football Reference

Brian Waters: If he finally sends Mackenzy Bernadeau to the bench this week, it could mean big things for that running game. The entire line has to do a much better job run-blocking. 

Tyron Smith: Both tackles will be key against a top-flight pass rush, but Smith in particular will have his hands full with Robert Quinn, who's been tearing it up from the right side of the line this season.

Most productive pass-rushing 4-3 defensive ends, 2013
PRP Total pressures Sacks
1. Robert Quinn 18.3 17 4
2. Lamarr Houston 17.8 16 1
3. Willie Young 17.0 11 1

Pro Football Focus

DeMarco Murray: Murray needs help, but he himself has to display better vision of the field. This defense has been solid against the run this year, but it's still very beatable on the ground. As I mentioned, the 'Boys need more balance on offense. 

Dez Bryant: He's not fully healthy, but that didn't stop him from having a big day against the Chiefs. They desperately need more of that Sunday. 

 

Injury analysis, Cowboys edition

The focus has been on Spencer, Romo and Dez Bryant, all of whom are banged up. Romo will play, but he'll require another painkilling shot, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Meanwhile, Bryant will likely play, but he's still hurting, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. And Spencer wasn't at practice Friday, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Dallas might need George Selvie to step it up again. 

 

Injury analysis, Rams edition

One advantage Ware might have is that Rams right tackle Rodger Saffold is likely out due to a sprained MCL. If the Cowboys once again move Ware around, he could take advantage of that in a big way. 

 

B/R NFC East blog prediction: Cowboys 27, Rams 21

I'm sure they'll have some trouble with that pass rush and maybe even with Bradford and Austin, but the Cowboys have too much talent to lose back-to-back games against teams that finished with losing records last year. Back at home, they'll take care of business in a relatively close, competitive game. 

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