The Los Angeles Rams season opener will be at their new SoFi Stadium on September 13. They’ll be taking on the Dallas Cowboys without fans in attendance. This game is one of many that will begin one of the strangest seasons in NFL history due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Cowboys are a 3-point favorite over the Rams, but L.A. comes in strong with a chip on their shoulder. They also have a slew of veteran players coming back for the 2020 season.
The Cowboys meet the Rams again with star quarterback Dak Prescott and powerhouse running back Ezekiel Elliott. In 2019, Prescott had 388 completions for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also had 277 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Elliot had 301 carries for 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also had 420 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
The Cowboys also bring back defensive starters LB Jaylon Smith and DE DeMarcus Lawrence. Smith led the team with 142 tackles and Lawrence had five sacks. He was second in sacks behind Robert Quinn. Quinn had 11.5 sacks but was traded to the Chicago Bears in the offseason. This may prove to be a big loss for the Cowboys defense.
Dallas will also have a solid offensive line, but must roll with former Kansas City Chiefs Cam Erving as their new right tackle since La’el Collins was place on the IR due to a hip injury. Wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb will also be tough weapons to handle.
The Rams still have quarterback Jared Goff and the stellar receiving corps of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee. In 2019, Goff had 394 completions for 4,638 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also rushed for two touchdowns. Kupp and Woods both had over 1,100 receiving yards and Higbee broke franchise records with 69 receptions for 734 yards.
Bringing back star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and longtime Rams veteran Michael Brockers, as well as cornerback Jalen Ramsey, should motivate the defense. Though a depleted linebacker corps is still a concern.
The above players are just a few of the standouts from both teams. Expect the unexpected in this matchup. The Rams are looking for revenge after last year’s embarrassing 44-21 Week 15 loss at Cowboy Stadium. The question becomes, are the Rams ready? Running back Todd Gurley’s departure left a void now filled with a running-back-by-committee. Veteran Malcolm Brown, second-year player Darrell Henderson and rookie Cam Akers will take the snaps in the backfield.
Going into Week 1 and the start of the season brings many challenges. The Rams defense may be soft in the middle without starting nose tackle A’Shawn Robinson. The loss of tackling leader Cory Littleton, Clay Matthews and Dante Fowler, Jr. in the offseason was painful. The Rams have minimal experience from Micah Kiser in the inside linebacker position. Kiser is also coming off a season-ending pectoral injury causing him to miss all of 2019. Linebacker Travin Howard going on injury reserve just recently did not do the Rams any favors. Temporary medical holdouts and injuries have hampered the Rams, but they still have EDGE Leonard Floyd and linebacker Samson Ebukam.
As for the coaching staff of both teams, the Cowboys have poached two former Rams favorites. Former special teams coordinator John Fassel and former running backs coach Skip Peete are now with Dallas. Former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is now a Cowboy and is still mentored by Fassel. New head coach Mike McCarthy brings 13 years of coaching experience to the Cowboys and a 2011 Super Bowl win with the Green Bay Packers. McCarthy was not employed as a coach all of 2019, so this will be a challenge for him in a new culture and traveling away to meet the Rams.
Rams head coach Sean McVay is still looking to hit opponents on all fronts and make some changes to the offensive scheme. He now has an offensive coordinator for the first time since 2017 in Kevin O’Connell. Brandon Staley will be the new defensive coordinator replacing Wade Phillips. John Bonamego is tasked with the special teams coordinator. All the of the Rams coaches bring years of experience and a coaching youth movement to their respective positions.
The Rams’ 9-7 record was better than the Cowboys 8-8 record for 2019, but not by much. Both teams were inconsistent on defense throughout the season. The Rams also could not get their run game going when needed. The Cowboys lost games to bad teams they should have beaten. Week 1 will show where the right improvements were made and what will need work. Dallas has added new defensive players like veteran defensive end Aldon Smith, although Smith has not played in four seasons. He is slated to start, so the Rams offensive line will test his playing skills.
One bold prediction is a Rams win. They will be motivated by playing in their new stadium even though fans will not be present. The Rams want to redeem themselves after a 2019 season with bad losses, one of which was against the Cowboys. The offensive line is more experienced and re-tooled. The Rams defensive backs featuring John Johnson, III and Taylor Rapp in addition to Ramsey and Troy Hill are solid. The Rams are still stout up front but look for Donald to get double and triple teamed at times. Sebastian Joseph-Day is already experienced at starting nose tackle may prove himself a good run-stuffer. Kiser is looking to finally make a mark and is physically built for the job inside.
One thing is certain. This Rams and Cowboys rivalry always brings a great game whether it be in the preseason, the regular season or the playoffs. It’s going to be a tough one Sunday night, at 5:20 p.m. PT on NBC.