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Rams vs. Cowboys: A rematch with playoff lives at stake

Week 15 games do not come with more desperation ramifications in the air than Sunday’s matchup between the Rams and Cowboys in Texas.

Both the Rams and the Cowboys are battling for their respective playoff lives. A loss by either will be debilitating.

The two teams have been moving in different directions of late. The Cowboys began the season 3-0 but have lost their past three games and are 3-7 since the undefeated start. The Rams enter the game having won their past two games and three of the past four.

High up in the Cowboys’ lengthy list of issues this season is the fact they have not defeated a team with a winning record this season and are 0-6 against teams that currently have a winning record. Even worse, their seventh loss came against a struggling Jets team.

Just a couple weeks ago, the Cowboys looked like they were going to win the NFC East by default, with the Giants and Redskins out of the race by Halloween and the Eagles struggling. But their three-game slide, coupled with the Eagles somewhat righting themselves, has Dallas in danger of missing the playoffs, which is sure to lead to coach Jason Garrett’s firing.

That said, though, the Cowboys still are in control of their own destiny, needing just a win over the 6-7 Eagles on Dec. 22 in Philadelphia and one other win (or one other loss by the Eagles).

That’s the weird and cruel twist to this rematch of last season’s NFC divisional playoff game (a 30-22 Rams win): The 6-7 Cowboys control their own destiny, but the 8-5 Rams do not. They trail the 9-4 Vikings for the final wild-card spot.

“We do know the urgency is there, and the value of each game at this point. … We do know we are coming down the stretch here and need to make some things happen,’’ Rams quarterback Jared Goff told reporters during the week.

“Momentum is something serious if we can get it on our side,’’ Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott told reporters. “This has been a streaky team and yes, you got to get that first one to get the second one. That’s just the mindset. Let’s focus on today.’’

The Cowboys' Dak Prescott
The Cowboys’ Dak PrescottGetty Images

Prescott has been nursing injuries to both of his hands. He injured his right index finger early against the Bears on Dec. 5 then hurt his left hand later in the game.

Prescott will likely be seeing a lot of Rams destructive defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who has 11.5 sacks this season. As a team, the Rams have 11 sacks in the past two games.

Goff has been inconsistent this season, having thrown seven interceptions and four touchdowns in the past five games. His production has been better of late, though, with 717 yards passing and all four TDs in the past two games.

The game features two of the best running backs in Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and L.A.’s Todd Gurley, though neither has been in top form this season.

Gurley ranks just 16th with 771 yards, though he is tied for fifth in the league with nine rushing TDs. His pass-receiving numbers are way down, with just 168 receiving yards this year after amassing more than 1,300 the previous two years.

Elliott, a two-time rushing champion, has gone the past five games without reaching 100 yards rushing.

Another thing to watch is the Cowboys’ kicking game. They released Brett Maher, who’d been inconsistent, and signed veteran journeyman Kai Forbath this past week.

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