WHEN: 12:00 p.m. Central Time
WATCH: FOX (Chris Myers & Daryl Johnston)
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Red: Carolina at New England
Green: L.A. Rams at Dallas
Yellow: Detroit at Minnesota
Blue: NY Giants at Tampa Bay
Brown: Philadelphia at L.A. Chargers
Teal: San Francisco at Arizona
10: Jason Garrett’s wins against rookie head coaches — The eighth head coach in Cowboys history has compiled a 10-9 record against rookie head coaches. Certainly they get no more the “rookier” than 30-year-old Sean McVay of the Rams. The home margin doesn’t get any better as Garrett is 4-5 against first-time head coaches at AT&T Stadium. The 2016 NFL Coach of the Year was out-coached in Week 2 by a rookie head coach in a blowout loss. Garrett and the Cowboys need his experience to win out over McVay Sunday.
9: Rushing touchdowns Wade Phillips has surrendered to running backs since last Thanksgiving — The legendary defensive coordinator has put together defenses that have stifled the run and rushed the passer, but the opportunities to punch it in for six are there for good offenses. Ezekiel Elliott must revert to his 2016 form when he scored 15 rushing touchdowns to give the Cowboys the boost necessary to beat the Rams. Phillips’ defense will give him an opportunity for one today and he needs to take advantage of it.
8: Dallas’ rank for shortest drives in the NFL — The Cowboys offense is tied with the Buffalo Bills for the eighth-shortest drives on average league-wide with 2:29 of drive time. Dallas will need to possess the ball longer, which means winning more on first and second downs, to take away plays from the Los Angeles offense. Stephen Jones attributed the Cowboys offensive struggles to playing three of the best defenses in the NFL, and they’ll face a sleeper of one in the Rams Sunday.
7: Los Angeles’ rank for drives ending in turnovers per drive — Fun fact: 13.2 percent of the drives against the Rams defense end in turnovers through three games in 2017, good for seventh-best in the NFL. This season, the Cowboys are tied with the Detroit Lions for eighth place in terms of fewest drives ending in turnovers at 5.9 percent. Dallas will need to live more towards the lower side of the 5.9 number and not do their own rendition of the Week 1 Rams home match-up with the Indianapolis Colts.
6: DeMarcus Lawrence’s number of sacks so far — The real number is 6.5, which is actually closer to seven, but then this ranking wouldn’t make that much sense. The fourth-year pass rusher from Boise State has started to develop into the war daddy Jerry Jones was looking for, at least through the first three games of 2017. The Rams offensive line has done a great job protecting Jared Goff and are tied with the Saints and Vikings for third-fewest sacks surrendered with just three. Lawrence and company must generate consistent pressure to keep the Los Angeles offense from clicking.
5: Los Angeles’ rank in red zone conversions — The Rams are tied with six other teams for the fifth-best red zone conversions in the NFL at 66.7 percent. So far, they have figured it out after finishing seventh-worst in the league last year with a 47.1 percent conversion rate. The Cowboys red zone defense is tied with Atlanta for 16th in the NFL at 55.6 percent. Dallas will need to hold forth on that number if they are to reach the 3-1 mark for the third time in the Garrett era.
4: The Cowboys’ rank in best starting field position — Through three games, Dallas starts at the 32.6-yard line per drive on offense, the fourth-best in the NFL. However, they don’t exactly take advantage of that top-5 field position as they are right at 16 in terms of drives ending in scores (35.3 percent). Dallas will need to up that number if they want to avoid losing to the Rams at home for the first time since Jan. 1, 2006.
3: Number of consecutive seasons Dez Bryant has not led Dallas in receiving yards after three games — And it’s not just the receiving yards either that point to Bryant not having a stellar start. His catch percentage of 40.7 percent is the lowest of his career through the first three games of a season. The good news is Terrance Williams has picked up the slack. The fifth-year wideout from Baylor has an 81.3 catch percentage, the second-best of his career through the first three games. Williams’ 13 catches for 132 yards are also career-high marks through the first three games. Bryant may not be playing to his reputation, but Williams is picking up the slack until then.
2: Rams’ ranking for average yards gained on first down — Want to see the Sean McVay effect in action? The Rams through three games are the second-best in the league in average yards per first down with 7.23. Compare that to being the absolute worst in the NFL at 4.38 yards per first down. What does it matter? Because eating bigger chunks on first and second down make third downs more manageable. Los Angeles is the seventh-best in third down conversions this year with a 46.2 percent conversion rate. The Cowboys third down defense can improve by stopping Los Angeles on first and second downs.
1: Aaron Donald’s rank for sacks by an interior defensive lineman since 2014 — The 13th overall pick from the 2014 NFL draft has dropped opposing passers 29 times, which is the most by defensive tackles in that span. Donald held out the entire preseason, so he only has a single sack to show through the first three games, matching the second-lowest such output of his career. However, he is still one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the game. Thankfully, Dallas has one of the best guards in the game in Zack Martin and best centers in Travis Frederick. However, they will either have an unhealthy Chaz Green or fill-in Jonathan Cooper at left guard. This could be the game Donald officially marks his return.