The Los Angeles Rams were the best team in the NFL through the first half of the season. They rolled to an 8-0 record and looked like they would dominate throughout the rest of the year.

They had a dangerous and explosive offense and a defense that featured Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.

However, after Jared Goff (32 TD passes) and Todd Gurley (1,251 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry) both made runs at the MVP award after their sharp starts, the Rams came down to earth in the second half of the season, going 5-3.

Their defense broke down in wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs, and they lost games to the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

The unstoppable characteristic that the Rams had in the first half all but disappeared. One-sided wins over the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers in the final two weeks of the season don't indicate that they are back in top form.

       

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

When: 8:15 p.m. ET

TV: Fox 

Odds and Over/Under: LAR -7, 49

Point spread information courtesy of OddsShark.

In addition to the broadcast networks, all playoff games can be viewed on FuboTV. 

       

The Dallas Cowboys come into this game having edged out the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round, hanging on for a 24-22 victory.

Ezekiel Elliott had a huge outing, rushing for 137 yards against a tough Seattle run defense—a similar or better effort here can be expected.

The Rams allowed a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry this season, and if they can't come up with a better effort here, it could lead the way to a Dallas upset.

If the Cowboys can give Elliott similar rushing lanes in this game, that should make it much easier for quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott threw for 3,885 yards and had a 22-8 TD-interception ratio this year, and his productivity picked up after the Cowboys added wideout Amari Cooper prior to the trade deadline. Cooper has speed, excellent hands and the moves needed to make big plays, and he could be a big factor for the Cowboys.

The Dallas defense will be tested by Goff, Gurley and wideouts Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. The key to slowing down the Rams attack will be the amount of pressure the Cowboys put on Goff.

Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence led the Cowboys with 10.5 sacks, while fellow defensive end Randy Gregory added six more QB traps.

Rookie outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has also been a key factor all season, with a team-leading 140 tackles along with seven passes defensed and two interceptions.

The Rams defense will have to be much better than it was in the second half of the season. Donald is capable of dominating any game as he finished the regular season with 20.5 sacks and 59 tackles.

If the Cowboys can't limit his production, the Rams will be in an excellent position to survive and advance to the NFC title game.

Inside linebacker Cory Littleton should also be a huge factor after recording a team-high 125 tackles along with 4.0 sacks. Littleton regularly finds himself around the ball, and he must find a way to keep Elliott from having an explosive game.

     

Prediction

The game comes down to both defenses. The Cowboys have to find a way to pressure Goff consistently and keep the Rams from piling up big plays and lighting up the scoreboard.

The Rams must prevent Elliott from running wild and therefore making life easy for Prescott. 

Neither one of these defenses has an easy job, but the belief here is that Dallas will do a better job of slowing down Goff and his receivers than Los Angeles will do against Elliott.

While the game is in Los Angeles, Dallas fans are likely to have a huge impact at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Cowboys upset the Rams and move on to the NFC Championship Game.