By Charles Jay

When: 9:00 PM ET, Saturday, August 12, 2017

Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA

Betting Line: Cowboys -3 Total: 37.5

TV Coverage: NFL

 

The Dallas Cowboys seemed to have something of a dream season in 2016, but could a nightmare be on the horizon? One has to wonder whether Dak Prescott can duplicate his heroics from last season, and there is already trouble for running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has received a six-game suspension from the NFL. They won the NFC East title behind those two rookies last year, but they are in a highly-competitive division, expected to to face a challenge from the New York Giants and Washington Redskins.

The Los Angeles Rams will move ahead with a new coach after firing Jeff Fisher before the end of last season. Sean McVay is young (31) and comes with a great football pedigree. He was also a very critical component in developing Kirk Cousins as an NFL quarterback. So that begs the question as to what he can do with Jared Goff, the #1 choice in last year's draft, who struggled mightily in his rookie season. The Rams were the subject of last year's "Hard Knocks" documentary series on HBO, and that is exactly what they took last year en route to a 4-12 record. 

ABOUT THE COWBOYS:  Dak Prescott started to make his mark right away for the Cowboys, having an outstanding pre-season in 2016. He completed 39 of 50 passes for 454 yards (nine yards an attempt) and five TD's without an interception. He also ran for a pair of touchdowns. In his rookie year he had 23 TD passes and was intercepted only four times. But he will have to wait a while before taking the field with his rookie running mate, at least in the regular season. Elliott was sacked for six games on domestic violence charges, although he is not going to face criminal charges locally in his native Ohio. So he is appealing the suspension and owner Jerry Jones has vehemently protested the NFL's actions. Prescott did not play in the Hall of Fame, but Kellen Moore, one of the backup quarterbacks, made his presence known, completing 12 of 17 passes for 182 yards. There is some veteran backup for Elliott, as Darren McFadden and Albert Morris have both registered thousand-yard seasons in the NFL. Ronnie Hillman, who had 863 yards for Denver a couple of seasons ago, is also on hand. 

ABOUT THE RAMS:  Case Keenum (now with Minnesota) kept the seat warm until the coaching staff figured Goff might be ready, and when the rookie played he barely averaged over five yards per attempt. The Rams were near the bottom in almost every major offensive category, even rushing, where Todd Gurley logged just 3.2 yards per carry. Part of the problem is that Goff played in an offensive system under Sonny Dykes at Cal that did not necessarily prepare him for an NFL approach. This year he should be well-adjusted, but the Rams had to put some more weapons around him, so this week they went out and acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins from the Buffalo Bills. When he is settled in, Watkins will be the #1 receiver. But he needs to develop some chemistry with his quarterback. And Tavon Austin has been listed as questionable. That would leave Watkins' former Buffalo teammate, Robert Woods, Pharoh Cooper and second-round pick Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) as the top guys catching passes from Goff. Sean Mannion, who ran up big numbers at Oregon State a couple of years ago, and veteran backup Dan Orlovsky are the other QB's behind Goff.

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EXTRA POINTS 

1. Prescott made his NFL pre-season debut at the Coliseum against the Rams last year, and completed ten of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. 

2. The Rams were dead last in scoring and total yardage last season. 

3. The Los Angeles defense was ranked 9th in the NFL in yardage allowed, but because they were generally in poor field position, they gave up 24.6 points  game, which was only 23rd best. 

4. New head coach Sean McVay is, at 31, the youngest to hold that position in modern NFL history. 

5. The Cowboys gave up fewer rushing yards than any team in the league last season - only 83.5 per game. But their pass defense ranked just 26th, and only made nine interceptions. 

PREDICTION:  Cowboys 21, Rams 14