Two of the NFL’s best running backs do battle as Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys visit Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams.
The Cowboys have been a completely different offensive team since acquiring Amari Cooper and won seven of their final eight games on their way to the NFC East title. Meanwhile, the Rams were the Super Bowl favorites for the majority of the year before a late season hiccup cost them the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. We break down the best ways to wager this NFC Divisional Round battle.
The Rams are one of the better teams in the league at scoring in the first quarter, especially at home, notching 7.8 per contest. But they are going up against the stingiest first quarter team, as the Cowboys allow a miniscule 1.4 points per contest in the opening frame.
Surprisingly, both teams have struggled a bit with red zone touchdown scoring while at the same time possessing strong red zone defenses. So, with the Cowboys’ first quarter stinginess, both teams looking to establish the run early take a FG as the game’s first score.
Prediction: First score – FG (+125)
FIRST HALF BET
Everyone knows this game is all about the run game and defense. However, the Rams run defense has been shockingly bad this season. They ranked dead last in the NFL surrendering a whopping 5.1 yards per carry. So, you can bet they are going to get a large dose Elliott in this matchup. Elliott had a league-best 1,434 rushing yards this season and added 137 more and scored a touchdown in Dallas' 24-22 win over Seattle last weekend.
Meanwhile, Gurley finished with 1,251 rushing yards and NFL-best 21 total touchdowns despite sitting out the Rams' final two games because of knee inflammation and soreness. If Gurley close to healthy, that clock could wind down fast in the first half.
Prediction: Under 24.5 (-120)
There could be big games by several big-name players in this game. But one of the best value player props is on the Cowboys side. Cooper will likely be shadowed by Aquib Talib all game, which means rookie Michael Gallup will be mostly covered by Marcus Peters and it has been a rough year for the Rams’ cornerback. Gallup has gotten more comfortable in the Cowboys offense as the season as gone on and has averaged over six targets per game over the last six games. Take the Over on his reception total in this one.
Prediction: Michael Gallup Over 2.5 receptions (-125)
FULL GAME TOTAL
The Rams unquestionably have one of the best offenses in the NFL, as Sean McVay’s team ranks second in total yards and points scored this season. And Jared Goff (4,688 passing yards, 32 touchdowns) had his name being whispered among the NFL Most Valuable Player candidates before a pronounced three-week slump silenced that talk. Unfortunately, the Cowboys have a defense that can make life tough for the Rams. Thanks to the likes of Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylen Smith and Byron Jones the Cowboys have standout players at each level.
On the other side, the Rams have the stud when it comes to defender. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald led the league in sacks and there is no one who can disrupt a game like him. Interior pressure is something that can give Dak Prescott problems. Additionally, Aquib Talib should give Cooper some problems on the outside. The defenses should have the edge and the run games should accelerate the clock. We like the Under here.
Prediction: Under 48.5 (-110)
FULL GAME SIDE
Gurley’s health is a huge question mark in this one. He missed the final two weeks of the season, had the benefit of the bye and was still was limited this week in practice. That is not a good sign. The Rams rely a lot on the play action pass and that could be a problem if Gurley can’t be effective, or at least have the threat of effectiveness.
And while the Rams went 7-1 SU at home they went just 3-4-1 against the spread. In fact, the Rams have been mostly a terrible bet against teams that aren’t bad. Here are the teams they covered against this season: San Francisco (twice), Arizona (twice), Oakland, Detroit and the lone good team, the Chargers. Against the Vikings, Seahawks, Broncos, Packers, Saints, Chiefs, Bears and Eagles they went 0-7-1 ATS.
The other aspect that needs to be factored in here is that the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is one of the worst home field advantages in the NFL and you could expect the stadium to be filled nearly half Cowboys fans. This is just too many points in this spot.
Prediction: Cowboys +7