Biggest sleeper of Cowboys-Rams: Dallas needs rookie WR Michael Gallup to have an impact

The Los Angeles Rams were expected to be in this round of the playoffs. They were one of the most popular preseason picks to win the Super Bowl this season.

The Dallas Cowboys weren’t as high on those lists, and their season looked dead when they fell to 3-5. But Dallas has lost only once since then, and turned back the Seattle Seahawks last week in a wild-card playoff win.

Here is a sleeper player for each team heading into Saturday night’s divisional round playoff game:

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

The Cowboys’ offense changed when the team traded for receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper had some big games, most notably an enormous performance against the Eagles in an overtime win.

It also opened things up for others, most notably rookie Michael Gallup.

Gallup, a third-round pick out of Colorado State, was never going to be a No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys as a rookie. But he settled in nicely as a No. 2 once Cooper arrived.

If we remove a catch-less game against the Colts, in which the entire Cowboys offense was asleep in a 23-0 loss, Gallup’s past four regular-season games produced 76, 24, 53 and 50 yards. He had a wonderful touchdown catch against the Seahawks, though he had only 18 yards in the game.

With Allen Hurns done for the season after a rough leg injury, and slot receiver Cole Beasley and tight end Blake Jarwin uncertain to play due to ankle injuries, Gallup’s role could be huge. Presumably Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will do whatever he can to take Cooper out of the game, so Gallup could see more targets.

It’s a lot to ask for a rookie in a playoff game, but Dallas doesn’t have too many other options, especially if they’re missing Beasley or Jarwin due to injuries.

22 PHOTOS
The best photos of the NFL playoffs
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The best photos of the NFL playoffs
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 20: Ted Ginn #19 of the New Orleans Saints makes a 43-yard catch against Lamarcus Joyner #20 of the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees is sacked by Los Angeles Rams' Ndamukong Suh during the first half of the NFL football NFC championship game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Los Angeles Rams players celebrate after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) spins in the air as he is tackled by New England Patriots defensive back Jonathan Jones (31) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with his teammates after the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots breaks up a pass intended for Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the second quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) gestures as he runs past Indianapolis Colts safety Clayton Geathers (26) and linebacker Anthony Walker during the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) lies on the turf in front of New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) after the Saints intercepted a pass in the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. The Saints won 20-14. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Sony Michel #26 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown as he is defended by Casey Hayward #26 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12: Inside linebacker Cory Littleton #58 of the Los Angeles Rams tackles running back Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Round playoff game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 12: Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs is tackled by J.J. Wilcox #37 and teammate Kenny Moore #23 of the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) pulls in a touchdown reception against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc (34) in the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JANUARY 06: Melvin Gordon #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers loses the ball on the 1 yard line against the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 06, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 05: Eric Ebron #85 of the Indianapolis Colts catches a pass for a touchdown defended by Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Houston Texans in the first quarter during the Wild Card Round at NRG Stadium on January 5, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc (34) breaks up a pass intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller (17) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates his first down near the goal line against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of the NFC wild-card NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) tries to break free from Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James in the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) leaps over Los Angeles Chargers defenders as he rushes the ball in the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) flies for the goal line and makes a first down against Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the second half of the NFC wild-card NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc (34) breaks up a pass intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller (17) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey (1) reacts after missing a field goal in the closing minute during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Chicago. The Eagles won 16-15. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Los Angeles Rams LB Cory Littleton

It’s unusual for a team’s middle linebacker to also be its best special teams player. Not only is Littleton the leader of the Rams’ special teams, he made the Pro Bowl for his work on that unit.

On Saturday night, Littleton’s work as a linebacker will be of utmost importance. He’ll have a big role in slowing down Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Littleton, a full-time starter this season for the first time in his three-year career, had a team-high 125 tackles. Littleton also was credited with 13 passes defensed, and he had three interceptions. In 12 of the Rams’ 16 games, he played every defensive snap.

The matchup between the Cowboys’ offensive line vs. the Rams’ defensive line will be a big one, but Littleton’s play will be a key. Elliott led the NFL with 1,434 rushing yards. Dallas will want to establish him, in part to keep the Rams’ offense off the field as much as possible. Littleton will have to play well to minimize Elliott’s impact. Littleton could also be asked to keep Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott from making big plays with his legs. Prescott’s 16-yard run on a third-and-14 in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks was one of the biggest plays in that game.

Littleton was undrafted out of Washington in 2016, and made his mark as a special-teams standout. He’ll still be doing that on Saturday night, but his work against Dallas’ run game might go a long way in determining if the Rams move on to the NFC championship game.

8 PHOTOS
Super Bowl LIII odds for the 8 remaining teams
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Super Bowl LIII odds for the 8 remaining teams

T-8. Dallas Cowboys
Divisional round opponent: At Los Angeles Rams

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 9/1
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 6%

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

T-8. Indianapolis Colts
Divisional round opponent: At Kansas City Chiefs

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 9/1
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 6%

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

6. Philadelphia Eagles
Divisional round opponent: At New Orleans Saints

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 8/1
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 8%

(Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

5. Los Angeles Chargers
Divisional round opponent: At New England Patriots

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 8/1
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 11%

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

4. New England Patriots
Divisional round opponent: Los Angeles Chargers

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 6/1
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 14%

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

3. Kansas City Chiefs
Divisional round opponent: Indianapolis Colts

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 17/4
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 20%

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

2. Los Angeles Rams
Divisional round opponent: Dallas Cowboys

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 7/2
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 14%

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

1. New Orleans Saints
Divisional round opponents: Philadelphia Eagles

Betting odds via Vegas Insider: 5/2
Projected chances via FiveThirtyEight: 22%

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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Frank Schwabis a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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