Reporting from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center this weekend, as the Ramily grew by approximately 8 pounds, 9 ounces on Friday.
Profound appreciation for my lovely bride, who brought another baby boy into our lives just in time for a Week 15 trip to Dallas. Additionally, thanks to the wonderful medical professionals who continue to care for her and our son.
Now let's see if we can get little Jonas his first win!
Let's begin with a quick update on the Rams chances.
Entering play this week, L.A.'s odds were as high as 42% according to one projection site. They'd spike to 56% with a win in Dallas.
You already know to root for a Chargers win over the Vikings on Sunday. That would buoy the Rams to 74%.
But were you aware that if the Bears beat the Packers in the early window, the Rams would control their own postseason fate before they even kick off in Arlington?
That's right: Bears or Chargers win Sunday + Rams win out = L.A. in the postseason.
East is Least?
By virtue of its head-to-head win over Philadelphia, Dallas holds the tiebreaker lead in the NFC East at 6-7. The Eagles and Cowboys will rematch next week at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dallas is 0-6 against teams with a current record of .500 or better (and 6-1 against teams with losing marks.)
Who have they beaten? The Giants twice, Washington, Miami, Philadelphia, and Detroit. That's the second-lowest strength of victory (.250) in the NFL, ahead of only Arizona.
The specter of having such a weak division champion host a wild card game has once again sparked conversation about whether the NFL has the optimal playoff format.
I wonder if a division champion should be replaced in the postseason field under the following extreme circumstances:
1. Division Champion has a losing record (or a "non-winning record" if you want to get really proactive).
2. A potential Replacement Team from outside the playoff field has a winning record and is from a different division than the Division Champion.
3. That potential Replacement Team owns a head-to-head win over the Division Champion.
Should the Rams win on Sunday, and should the Cowboys find a way to prevail in the NFC East at 7-9, there would actually be multiple candidates to replace Dallas in the 2019 playoffs under this formula: Los Angeles, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Chicago.
By the way, I'd suggest the Replacement Team shouldn't get to host a Wild Card game, but instead would become the 6-seed.
The Los Angeles Rams practice in Thousand Oaks, Calif. ahead of their Week 15 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
Bogged Down By Good Defenses
During their current three-game losing streak, the Cowboys have played three of the top four scoring defenses in the NFL: The Patriots, Bills, and Bears.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, over that stretch the Cowboys have scored a touchdown on 15% of their drives, tied for 24th in the NFL. They scored a touchdown on 31% of their drives from Weeks 1-11, the second-best rate in the NFL.
Their schedule doesn't relent with the Rams coming to town, as Los Angeles has allowed the second-fewest points per game since acquiring Jalen Ramsey, and the first-team defense hasn't surrendered a touchdown since the Monday Night Football game that shall not be mentioned.
As we mentioned last week, the Rams have a team streak of at least three sacks, which now extends to an NFL-leading seven straight games. What a coincidence; those happen to be the seven games since the trade for Ramsey.
The rush has been even more pronounced in the month of December, decking Kyler Murray six times in Week 13 and wrapping up Russell Wilson five times last week.
The Rams haven't recorded five-or-more sacks in three straight games since Weeks 9-thru-11 of 1999, their Super Bowl season.
On the other side of the ball, however, Dak Prescott owns the lowest sack percentage among NFL quarterbacks who've made every start this season.
He's protected by a decorated offensive line that's enjoyed better health than a year ago, when Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick combined to miss 21 games due to injury.
Speaking of Sacks
Former Rams defensive end Robert Quinn is having a great season in Dallas, with 9.5 sacks to his credit.
This week, the true right defensive end will go up against left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who celebrated a 38th birthday this week and was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year.
According to Pro Football Focus, he's getting better as the season wears on. In the Rams last seven games (are we giving Jalen Ramsey credit for this trend, too?!), Big Whit's pass blocking grade of 88.2 ranks fourth among all NFL linemen.
Apropos of nothing, Dallas has been outscored 47-0 in the second and third quarters the last two games, both losses.
I'm not sure what's more stunning, that the Cowboys defense could give up 47 across four quarters, or that this loaded offense could be shut out for the equivalent of a full game.
Far From Amari
There have been rumblings around the Metroplex that Amari Cooper may not be 100 percent.
He was a full participant on this week's injury report despite a knee issue, but he's lacked his typical explosiveness of late.
According to ESPN research, over his last four games, Cooper has a single reception of at least 20 yards and only 37 yards after the catch (2.2 per reception).
Against Ramsey, he has a challenging afternoon ahead of him again in Week 15.
Can Rams Get Brandin Cooking?
L.A. has a similar challenge in jumpstarting one of their top receivers, Brandin Cooks.
In three outings since returning from a concussion, Brandin Cooks has 4 receptions for 56 yards, getting shut out last week against Seattle. Coincidentally, his only prior career game without a catch (or injury) was in 2016, as a member of the Saints, in their demolition of the Rams.
Cowboys Cut Kicker
The last time the Rams went to AT&T Stadium, Greg Zuerlein set a franchise record, connecting on all seven of his field goal attempts. He accounted for 23 of the Rams 35 points that day.
Believe it or not, last Sunday night against the Seahawks was the first game since 2015 in which Greg the Leg attempted a field goal and did not make at least one (Seattle blocked his 37-yarder in the third quarter).
In other kicking news, the Cowboys cut their kicker Brett Maher last week, as he'd missed an NFL-high 10 boots. Former UCLA Bruin and NFL journeyman Kai Forbath will handle kicking duties for Dallas against the Rams.
Good Note From Gil
Courtesy of Gil Brandt: In the Sean McVay era, the Rams are 5-0 against teams that entered their matchup on a losing streak of three-or-more games (like the Week 15 Cowboys), and have won those five contests by an average margin of 20 points.
I went in search of those games out of curiosity: 2019 at Arizona, 2019 in London versus Cincinnati, 2019 at Atlanta, 2018 at San Francisco, 2018 at Denver.
Interesting that they were all road wins for the Rams, too.