LA Rams News: Season opener against Dallas vital for fans

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

LA Rams News:  The 2020 NFL season opener is at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Here’s why that game holds a special meaning

Whether or not you cheer for the Dallas Cowboys when they are not facing the LA Rams is up to you. But after those same Cowboys repeatedly poached the Rams coaching staff to fill their own coaching staff openings, it became somewhat personal.  The Cowboys helped themselves to the Rams distinguished Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel. Likewise, the Cowboys hired on the Rams former running backs coach Skip Peete.  Next, the Cowboys made it a clean sweep by poaching special teams assistant coach Matt Daniels.

But the Cowboys were not done just yet, not by a long shot.

The Dallas Cowboys finally added insult to injury by signing away the LA Rams longtime kicker, Greg Zuerlein, in free agency.  The “new and improved” Dallas Cowboys look and feel an awful lot like the “old and dependable” LA Rams early in the 2020 NFL season.

So now, the NFL is sending the Cowboys to open the NFL season with the LA Rams at SoFi Stadium, in front of a national audience on September 13, 2020, at 5:20 pm PT, and will be broadcast by NBC as the first NFL Sunday Night Game.

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Pre-season hype shines on Dallas once more

Despite the Dallas Cowboys 8-8 finish to the 2019 season, with the entirely new coaching staff, and significant losses on the defense of DE Robert Quinn and CB Byron Jones which the team failed to address adequately, the Cowboys have been projected to improve to a ten-win season.  In fact, the Cowboys are now reportedly 2.5 point road favorites.

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Of course, that’s a standard of the NFL. The Cowboys have a very active fanbase and have plenty of former players in the broadcast booths of virtually all NFL sports networks. That translates each year into the discussion of “just how good will they be?” immediately following the NFL Draft.

The Rams must recognize that any path to the NFL Playoffs begins week one.  That path must be forged by making SoFi stadium a very difficult road game for NFL teams. That’s on the fans attending, and on the team to win decisively.

Big risk, bigger reward

Week one at home carries a bit of risk for the home team, particularly one where the team will likely start up to six new faces on defense, and three new faces on offense. But two faces who will show up on offense are WR Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. In this game, they will go off. Don’t forget that in the 2019 game, only tight end Tyler Higbee was productive. The Rams could not get their running game going whatsoever, nor could the defense shut down the running back tandem of the Cowboys in Tony Polliard and Ezekiel Elliott.

That was then, this is now.

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The Rams are all too familiar with what the Dallas Cowboys offense will do. But the Cowboys will have no idea how to face the LA Rams in the season opener.  That’s a defense, I might add, that boasts both Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.  Beyond the Rams’ defensive stars, the team has made a deliberate and concerted effort to bolster the run defense.

And that run defense will be tested severely in week one against Ezekiel Elliott. Look for new A’Shawn Robinson to have a huge game as the nose tackle against whomever the Cowboys sends to the slaughter at the center position. And once they make adjustments to thwart Robinson over the center, Aaron Donald will literally take over.

Healthy parity makes a difference in this one.

By the time the LA Rams faced Dallas in 2019, the team was a shell of its former self. The Rams were down four starters on the offensive line, had completely rebuilt the defensive secondary on the fly, and simply failed to counter whatever the Cowboys dictated at the line of scrimmage.

A very healthy Dallas team pretty much had their way with a beaten up and hobbled Rams team.

The Rams get to debut RB Cam Akers in this one. While I do not see the Rams rookie opening over 100 yards, I can see him scoring a rushing touchdown in this one.  But the true hero of this day, and this game, will be veteran QB, Jared Goff.  On this day, he fires out with a length-of-the-football-field drive to open the game, and the Rams never look back.

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Special meaning

The story of this game is not that the Rams win at home, but how they win. I believe that the new Brandon Staley inspired defense can hold Ezekiel Elliott under 100 yards rushing. I also believe that rookie Terrell Lewis and veteran Aaron Donald and will pressure quarterback Dak Prescott all evening.  On offense, the Rams will uncork Jared Goff, who will pass for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. RB  Cam Akers will have a successful debut, rushing over 90 yards and adding a touchdown on the ground.

The Dallas Cowboys will arrive with the expectation to win handily and be off to the media-anointed journey to their eventual Super Bowl date with destiny.  The LA Rams will host this game with a number of pre-game stories chastising the team for their financial hardships, squandering their 2018 Super Bowl appearance, and an expose on how the Rams are so desperate to win that the team recast the entire coaching coordinator roles in the off-season.

By games end, the rhetoric will change.  The mystique of playing at SoFi stadium will begin. National sports talking heads will question the perfect union of head coach Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys franchise. Perhaps the first “should Dalton start?” article will surface. But the outcome we most look forward to is the sudden silence on how bad this LA Rams team will be in 2020.  Winning at home against Dallas sends a long-overdue message to the NFL at-large. The LA Rams will not fade away quietly. The Rams had set out on a mission to put a Championship ring on All-Pro Aaron Donald’s finger, and they’re not done yet.

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Rhetoric is rhetoric. The Dallas Cowboys will arrive at Los Angeles expecting to win. And, the only thing wrong with that picture? The LA Rams won’t read the script and instead will write one of their own. The 2020 schedule is out, but the Rams still know it takes one game at a time.  By the game’s end, the Cowboys will know it too.