Upon first glance, Saturday's NFL divisional-round game between the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys is all about the running backs.
While one player is capable of leading his respective franchise to victory, the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds in the NFC will rely on more than just their running games to come out on top at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
In addition to possessing top-tier running backs, the Cowboys and Rams both have imposing defenses and young quarterbacks, one of whom is in search of his first playoff victory.
Both teams could also carry a bit of extra motivation going into Saturday since a win combined with a Philadelphia Eagles victory over the New Orleans Saints allows the victor to host the NFC Championship Game.
Cowboys vs. Rams Information
Date: Saturday, January 12
Start Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Ticket Info: Available tickets for Saturday's game can be found on StubHub.
Odds (via OddsShark): Los Angeles -7; Over/Under: 49.5
Running Backs Expected to Play Important Role
Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott and Los Angeles' Todd Gurley finished first and third in rushing yards, respectively, and the two would have been neck-and-neck if Gurley wasn't hurt toward the back end of the regular season.
Elliott is coming off one of his best games of the season, as he ran through the Seattle defense for 137 yards in the Wild Card Round.
The Dallas running back's success has translated to road games as well, as three of his five best rushing performances came away from AT&T Stadium.
That's a positive sign for the Cowboys, who will look to challenge the Rams defensive line from the first snap.
Although the Rams possess some of the best pass-rushers in the league, they rank 23rd in rushing defense.
L.A. concedes 122.3 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per attempt, which opens the door for Elliott to come close to his ninth triple-digit ground game.
In each of their past five games, the Rams gave up more than 100 yards on the ground, and if they don't switch things up defensively in preparation for Elliott, that streak will run to six.
Gurley is going to have a tougher time gaining yards Saturday against Dallas' fifth-ranked rushing defense, which gave up more than 100 rushing yards on six occasions in the regular season.
In their wild-card win over Seattle, the Cowboys smothered the line of scrimmage and held the Seahawks to 73 rushing yards.
Dallas is hoping to put together a similar performance by getting a push on the interior and forcing Gurley outside, where its talented collection of linebackers will be there to stop his advances.
However, Gurley is a bit better at finding spaces in the defense than Seattle's Chris Carson, and that will show on a few drives.
Although he was a limited participant in practice Wednesday, Gurley is on track to play Saturday, per Myles Simmons of the team's official website.
Gurley doesn't need to reach the 100-yard plateau, but he does need to be effective with his cutting to get around Dallas' defensive linemen, and he also needs to make himself a threat in the short-passing game.
If Gurley produces similar numbers from his wild-card performance against the Atlanta Falcons a year ago, when he ran for 101 yards, the Rams should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the Dallas defense with a balanced approach.
Prescott, Goff Relied On to Provide Balanced Offensive Approach
While some teams with dominant running backs would be more than happy to hand off the ball 30 times to their offensive workhorse, the Cowboys and Rams have to buck that strategy and call on their respective quarterbacks to get the job done Saturday as well.
Even though Elliott was the dominant force in the victory over the Seahawks, Dak Prescott still recorded 226 passing yards and a touchdown while running for 29 yards and a score.
If the Cowboys receive a similar output from Prescott on Saturday, they will be in terrific position to run up the score on the Rams defense.
The one thing Prescott has to be wary about in the pocket is making the wrong throw, as he's going up against a defense that picked off 18 passes in the regular season.
With Troy Hill, Marcus Peters and John Johnson among others lurking in the secondary, Prescott needs to make the right reads in the pocket in order to avoid a momentum-changing play out of L.A.'s defensive backs.
Dallas possesses a formidable passing defense—the 13th-best unit in the NFL. But it has half as many interceptions as the Rams.
Safeties Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath will play vital roles in limiting the progress of the Rams offense, led by Jared Goff, who has plenty of weapons to work with through the air.
Goff's performance will be more important to his team than that of Prescott because Gurley is working back to full game speed.
If the third-year signal-caller takes some of the pressure off Gurley by leading a drive down the field early by connecting with Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, the Rams can knock off the Cowboys with an attack that doesn't solely rely on Gurley.
In his last two regular-season games, Goff threw for 415 yards and five touchdowns. If he posts around 250 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night, the Rams will be in great shape.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.