After playing on the road for the past two games, the Cowboys will be returning home to Dallas this week for something of a rarity: a game that kicks off at 1 p.m. ET.
This Sunday's game against the Rams marks one of only two games that the Cowboys are scheduled to play this season in the 1 p.m. ET slot. After this week, the Cowboys aren't scheduled to play another game in the early time slot until their Week 17 finale at Philadelphia, which could get end up getting flexed to primetime.
The early time slot isn't the only schedule oddity for the Cowboys this week -- they'll also be drawing the short-end of the stick when it comes to rest. Not only are the Cowboys coming into this game off a short week following Monday's 28-17 win over Arizona, but they're playing a Rams team that has gotten extra rest after beating the 49ers 41-39 in a Thursday night game that opened Week 3 action, which means the Rams will be going into to Dallas with four full extra days of rest.
The downside of the short week for the Cowboys is that starters like Nolan Carroll (concussion) and Anthony Hitchens (knee) -- who both missed Monday's game against Arizona -- won't have much time to heal before Week 4 kicks off. The Cowboys could also be missing Sean Lee this week. Their starting linebacker, who injured his hamstring against Arizona, didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday.
Here's what you need to know.
How to watch, stream
- Kickoff: Oct. 1, 1 p.m. ET
- TV: FOX (Check local listings)
- Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)
Rams coach Sean McVay is familiar with the Cowboys
Before taking the head coaching job with the Rams back in January, Sean McVay spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Redskins, which means he's highly familiar with the Cowboys and their defensive personnel.
McVay was named the Redskins offensive coordinator in 2014, which just happened to the same season that Rod Marinelli was named the defensive coordinator in Dallas. Basically, these guys know each other well, which makes this a chess match worth watching.
"They're an excellent defense," McVay said this week. "Marinelli has those guys playing really hard. Just being in that division the last couple of years, a lot of respect for them."
In his past three games against the Cowboys, McVay's offense in Washington averaged 27.7 points per game, which is a number he'll probably be looking to blow out of the water with his suddenly high-flying offense in Los Angeles.
After finishing the 2016 season as the NFL's lowest scoring team under Jeff Fisher, McVay has led an improbable resurrection of the Rams' offense under Jared Goff. Through three weeks this season, the Rams are averaging 35.7 points per game, which is the best mark in the NFL (only two other teams -- the Chiefs and Patriots -- are even averaging more than 30 points per game).
If the Cowboys defense isn't at full strength on Sunday, the Rams could be in the perfect position to pull off a huge upset.
You can read more quotes from each sideline here.
Why the Rams offense will keep rolling
The Rams have surprisingly been one of the league's best offenses to date, and our Sean Wagner-McGough explains why they should keep rolling in this matchup:
Again, it's not realistic to expect the Rams to continue scoring 35.7 points per game. It's not realistic to expect Goff to outplay Tom Brady for the rest of the season. And it's not realistic to expect Gurley to score touchdowns at this rate. The Rams are going to calm down when they play defenses that are capable of exploiting their flaws. A regression is coming.
But the Rams should already be pleased at their progress. They likely won't make the playoffs this season, but their future is bright. Last year, it looked like their most recent first-round picks of Goff and Gurley might bust. Now, those two look like potential building blocks. If Watkins can stay healthy, he's a WR1. For so many years, the Rams were stuck as a 7-9 or 8-8 team under Fisher. For the first time in what probably feels like forever, the Rams can dream of a better future that involves an exciting, innovative offense -- an offense that can lead the team into the postseason in the wars to come.
Check out Wagner-McGough's
It might be time to feed Ezekiel Elliott
Although it's still unclear if Ezekiel Elliott will have to serve his six-game suspension this season, that doesn't matter this week because he's definitely going to be on the field against the Rams, which is good news for the Cowboys offense.
Despite their 2-1 start, the Rams have had a few problems this season and one of those problems is stopping the run. Through three weeks, the Rams are surrendering 139 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 29th overall in the NFL. Although Elliott has struggled in his past two games with just 88 total rushing yards, the Cowboys aren't going to give up on him, especially when you consider the past two games were played against two teams that both have a top-10 rushing defense in Denver and Arizona.
With the Rams getting gashed on the ground, don't be surprised if the Cowboys feed Elliott until he can't eat anymore.
Jason Witten feels old
For the first time in his career, the Cowboys' 35-year-old tight end will be going up against an opposing head coach who's younger than him (McVay is 31). Needless to say, that has Witten feeling extra old lately.
"It's something. I don't know that I've ever played against a team that I'm older than the coach," Witten said this week, via the Dallas Morning News. "Maybe that's a sign."
Don't worry Cowboys fans, that "sign" Witten's talking about has nothing to do with retirement.
"You know, age is just a number," Witten said. "It's all about production and play."
Who will win?
Although we have two first place teams going head-to-head in this game, the oddsmakers in Vegas aren't giving the Rams much love this week as the Cowboys are currently a 6.5-point favorite. Not only does our Will Brinson like the Rams to cover in this game, but he also likes them to pull off the outright upset!
Obviously would prefer that this line be higher after opening Rams +9. But the line is the line and we have to deal with it. These Rams are frisky, and despite giving up lots of rushing yards (a problem against a team with Ezekiel Elliott on it) they can hold their own against the Cowboys, who are coming off a short week. Los Angeles has 10 days to prepare, and if you look at what Kirk Cousins did against the Cowboys while being coached by Sean McVay, it is not unreasonable to expect a nice game from Jared Goff. Todd Gurley can get loose and control tempo and will want to show up against Elliott in this game. Wouldn't be stunned if the Rams pulled the upset. I'll even go ahead and predict it, because why not? What do I have to lose? (A: Nothing.)
To check out all the Week 4 picks from our NFL team, be sure to click here.