Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (-5, 35.5 o/u)
The NFL officially returns to the City of Angels this Saturday as the new-look Los Angeles Rams host the Dallas Cowboys at the Memorial Coliseum (8:00 PM Eastern). It can be hard to get excited about preseason football, but Saturday’s tilt will be the first NFL game of any sort at the Coliseum since Christmas Eve, 1994. That kind of hiatus makes the prospect of watching third-string running backs juking undrafted safeties a lot more alluring.
The Cowboys are expected to have a bounce back year after going 4-12 last season. The team’s struggles were largely (entirely?) thanks to QB Tony Romo missing the bulk of the year with a collarbone injury. Every indication is that he’ll be ready for Week 1, but he won’t suit up on Saturday. (Romo hasn’t played in any of Dallas’ preseason openers since 2012.)
He’ll likely be joined on the sideline by a handful of other Cowboy stars, including rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, linebacker Sean Lee, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Elliott was limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury, while Lee is recovering from knee surgery.
Who will we see for the Cowboys? Rookie QB Dak Prescott will split time with second-year man Jameill Showers under center. (Kellen Moore, who was slated to be Romo’s backup, is out for upwards of four months with a broken leg.) Prescott was a Heisman contender a couple years ago but saw his stock fall a bit in his final season at Mississippi State. Still, he posted an impressive 56 touchdown passes to just 11 interceptions in his college career against some tough SEC defenses.
The hometown fans will be treated to an interesting QB dynamic from their own squad. LA made Jared Goff the number one pick in last year’s draft and hope he develops into the franchise pivot the team has been lacking. But as we’ve seen on Hard Knocks, Goff has been struggling with the transition to the NFL, in particular with play-calling.
Case Keenum, who made five thoroughly unimpressive starts for the Rams last year, is currently at the top of the depth chart and will start the game with the first-team offense.
While the Rams will be hoping for improved QB play this year, the success of the offense will largely hinge on the run-game. Second-year back Todd Gurley is a popular pick to lead the NFL in rushing this year. We should see him for one series on Saturday.
Betting NFL preseason – especially Week 1 – is always a bit of a crapshoot since the majority of the game is played by the reserves. But this is a rare preseason game where one team should actually get a big emotional boost from the crowd. The line (Rams -5) seems to recognize that, but I still like the home-town team to cover in front of a raucous LA crowd.
Pick: Rams (-5).
Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode].
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