Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams have the momentum Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys crave going into a rematch of a divisional playoff game from last season.
Despite their second three-game losing streak of the season, the Cowboys have something the Rams want even more but will need help getting even if the defending NFC champions keep winning: control of their playoff chances.
LA (8-5) visits Dallas on Sunday as the first team out of the conference playoff race with three games remaining, while the Cowboys (6-7) somehow are still tied atop the NFC East with Philadelphia after seven losses in 10 games.
''Momentum is something serious if we can get it on our side,'' Prescott said. ''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. Let's focus on the now.''
Both teams started 3-0 coming off LA's Super Bowl run that included a 30-22 divisional win over the Cowboys. Both teams then lost three straight.
Since sharing a 6-5 record, the teams have gone opposite ways. The Rams have won a pair, including last week's impressive 28-12 victory over Seattle. Dallas lost to Buffalo on Thanksgiving and Chicago a week later in a pair of forgettable showings.
As it stands, the Rams are paying for an uneven start as San Francisco and Seattle kept rolling in the NFC West.
''We do know the urgency is there and the value of each game at this point,'' Goff said. ''You do treat every game the same with the same approach, but we do know we are coming down the stretch here and need to make some things happen.''
ON THE LINE
The Rams defense respects the Cowboys' veteran offensive line, but Aaron Donald is still in line to add to LA's impressive total of 43 sacks this season. After getting 11 sacks in the past two weeks, the Rams' pass rush is in prime form to have success against the veteran Dallas line.
''They've got a group that's been playing together for about six years,'' Donald said. ''They're a good offensive line that plays good together, communicates together. But there's a lot of good players in this league.''
Prescott injured the pinkie finger on his throwing (right) hand and sprained his left hand against the Bears. The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has practiced with taped fingers this week. ''Just a couple of bruises,'' Prescott said. ''Probably wear the same tape in the game, but that's it. Nothing serious.''
Todd Gurley's relatively restful season appears to be over, and that could be bad news for the Dallas defense. After coach Sean McVay used Gurley sparingly with little consistency over the first three months of the season, the $60 million running back's touches and effectiveness are up sharply in the past three games.
He had 79 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving against Seattle, culminating in an impressive stiff-arm TD run for the Rams' clinching score. Although McVay insists it wasn't his intention, Gurley is rested and ready for Los Angeles' playoff push.
AS FOR ELLIOTT
Two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, all but assured to fall short of the rushing title in a full season for the first time, is coming off a couple of solid games. But his career-long streak of outings without reaching 100 yards is up to five.
While he's been used more than Gurley, Elliott says he feels rested, with his touches down by almost four per game over last season. ''I think I definitely feel a lot better than in past years,'' the 2016 All-Pro said. ''It's kind of with less touches and just being fresher.''''
Goff has seven interceptions and four touchdown passes over the Rams' last five games since their bye week. But his production has spiked in their last two games with 717 yards passing and all four TDs. He also made a handful of spectacular throws during LA's one-sided win over Seattle last week.
The fourth-year quarterback's inconsistency has to be concerning, but Goff's coaches praise his steady demeanor no matter the results. He sits fourth in the NFL with 3,712 yards passing, 410 behind Prescott.
The Dallas defense is still in the top 10 statistically but isn't impacting the game in a way that could help end the losing streak. Buffalo's Josh Allen had a season-high passer rating, and Mitch Trubisky's number with Chicago was nearly 30 points higher than his season average.
''I just think the biggest thing across the board on defense is we just have to be more disciplined and more fundamentally sound,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''And that's really been our calling card around here for a long time.''
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy, who hasn't had a touch since Week 15 and who was inactive for the AFC Championship against the Titans, said he's not ready to retire after this season. "Nah, I'm not ready to retire, yet," McCoy said. "I still can play. So, I'm not going to retire yet, but that day is coming. That day is definitely coming." The 31-year-old has taken a back seat to running backs Damien Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson down the stretch, and he's unlikely to have much of a role, if any, in the Super Bowl against the 49ers. Shady has become more of a mentor in the running back room than an on-field performer for fantasy owners.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (shoulder) said that he's been playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder since the start of the 2018 season. "So I dislocated my shoulder last year," Kittle said Sunday on the Pardon My Take podcast, "and my labrum is completely torn. So I don't get surgery on it -- [The protective sleeve] basically helps me, so it doesn't hurt all the time." He didn't miss any games in 2018 and set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. Kittle said there's "no chance" he has surgery in the future. The 26-year-old has been quiet in the postseason with four catches for 35 yards in two games, but the Niners haven't really needed him with their ground game humming. That could change in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who will be a free agent in March, emotionally admitted that he would fail a drug test to a police officer during a traffic stop recently. This was caught on video of the police officer's dash cam during the traffic stop. Hunt also admitted that the small amounts of marijuana found in the car were his, but the officer let Hunt off with just the speeding ticket. It remains to be seen if the NFL will consider a suspension for the 24-year-old from this incident. Hunt was released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season due to a domestic-violence incident, and he served a suspension before making his Browns debut in 2019. If he signs with another team this offseason and is given bell-cow duties in the backfield, Hunt could have RB1 upside.
The Los Angeles Chargers have "moved on from Philip Rivers," according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Rivers is set to become a free agent in March, and the writing was on the wall when he recently moved his entire family from San Diego to Florida. Rivers will end a 16-year run with the Chargers, but it remains to be seen where he'll land on the free-agent market this offseason. The Buccaneers are a popular expected destination, but that'll only be if they move on from Jameis Winston. Rivers completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2019 for a QB rating of 88.5. He might have a few more seasons left in him, but at 38 years old his arm strength is clearly deteriorating, and he'll probably be more of a QB2 in 2020, depending on where he winds up.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Matthew Judon is a candidate to receive the team's franchise tag and could also be traded, according to league sources. The Ravens would like to bring Judon back in 2020, but they are also likely to listen to trade offers if another team shows interest. The Niners dealt a second-round pick to the Chiefs last year for defensive end Dee Ford, who then signed a five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million last March. The Chiefs also traded first- and third-round picks to the Seahawks last April for defensive end Frank Clark, who then signed a five-year, $105.5 million deal. Judon has emerged as a high-end pass rusher with at least seven sacks in each of the last three years. The 27-year-old had a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2019 and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox was credited with a 61-yard interception return for touchdown at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle posted three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown on four targets for the AFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Pittsburgh Steelers DE T.J. Watt posted an 82-yard fumble return for touchdown in the fourth quarter for the AFC at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews ended up with a game-high nine receptions for an AFC-best 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. registered two grabs for 67 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter, for the AFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams ended up with a team-high six receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper finished with three grabs for 24 yards and a touchdown on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins completed 13-of-22 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas hauled in five receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown with a team-high eight targets at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell had a solo tackle, a sack and a quarterback hit in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26, winning the Defensive Most Valuable Player award.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson completed 16-of-23 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, winning Offensive Most Valuable Player. He also ran twice for six yards in the 38-33 win.
Houston Texans impending free-agent TE Darren Fells is a player the Texans will try to re-sign this offseason, but he probably will receive interest from multiple teams in free agency.
Houston Texans impending free-agent QB AJ McCarron is a candidate to be re-signed this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop.
New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), who is six weeks removed from groin/abdominal surgery, said he is jogging "a little bit" and is on track to take part in "spring football." Mosley has also started a vegan diet after playing in just two games last season because of his injury in his first year in New York. The 27-year-old should be ready for a full training camp heading into the 2020 season, and he should give Gang Green a steadying presence in the middle of the field next season. Mosley recorded 100-plus tackles in four of his five seasons in Baltimore before signing with the Jets in free agency last offseason.
Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who did not play at all in 2019, plans to play in 2020 after intentionally taking the season off to rest his body and mind. Berry was cut by the Chiefs in 2018 and has only played in three games since 2016 due to injuries and a bout with cancer. The former first-round pick in 2010 has 14 career interceptions and five touchdowns and could provide a team with a veteran presence in the secondary in 2020. However, it remains to be seen if any team will take a chance on the veteran moving forward. Berry is unlikely to be an asset in IDP leagues if he gets picked up by a team.