Two of the most storied franchises in the NFL will meet in the Divisional Round when the Dallas Cowboys travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers
Dallas Cowboys (12-5) @ San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
- Location: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA
- Time: Sunday, January 22nd at 6:30 p.m. ET
- Channel: FOX
- Spread: SF -4
- Moneyline: SF (-195), DAL (+165)
- Over/Under: 46
These two teams met in the Wild Card round last season with Dallas falling 23-17 after they failed to get up and clock the ball toward the end of the game. The 49ers would advance to the NFC Championship game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams.
The Cowboys also limped into the playoffs after three subpar showings, including a brutal Week 18 loss to a Washington Commanders team led by rookie Sam Howell, who was making his NFL debut. However, they rebounded well against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning 31-14.
Dak Prescott looked sharp, and the game was never particularly close, despite the fact that kicker Brett Maher missed four straight extra points. However, the question is whether that performance was an indication of how good Dallas is or how bad Tampa was, considering the Bucs came into the playoffs with a losing record.
Dallas will have a much stiffer test against San Francisco in the Divisional Round. The 49ers have won 11 straight games and are one of only three teams in the NFL that rank in the top six in all of Football Outsiders’ Total DVOA, Weighted DVOA, Offense DVOA, and Defense DVOA. The Bills and Eagles were the other two.
One could argue that there is no hotter team in the NFL than the 49ers. Since November 27th they’ve only had one game where they scored fewer than 33 points and that’s with a starting quarterback who was the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
By now, you’ve already heard about Brock Purdy, the former Mr. Irrelevant who has been the center of all discussions regarding the 49ers for the last few weeks. He was tremendous in his first-ever playoff game, throwing three touchdown passes and running for a fourth score while leading the 49ers to a 41-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in last Saturday’s wild-card game.
However, as good as Purdy has been, much of his success can be attributed to the collection of playmakers he has on offense with Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel. Even Purdy himself said after the Seahawks game, “I have to do my job, get it to the guys in space and go from there.”
If Dallas is going to stop those playmakers from ripping off big chunks of yardage in space, they are going to need a lot from Micah Parsons, who is one of the league’s brightest stars. The Cowboys use him all over the front seven to wreak havoc on opposing offenses, and it worked.
Dallas was a top-five unit, according to DVOA, across the board during the regular season. However, they struggled to close the regular season. They allowed 442 yards to Gardner Minshew and the Eagles, then allowed 317 yards to Joshua Dobbs and the Titans without Derrick Henry, and then allowed 309 yards to Sam Howell and the Commanders.
The 49ers have the 6th-best offense by DVOA and 3rd-best passing offense, so Dallas will need to do better if they have any chance of pulling this out.
Despite having a strong defense, the Cowboys are 16th in the NFL in yards allowed per completion, so they have given up their fair share of big plays. However, they are also the number one defense in the NFL when it comes to turnover rate, so their opportunistic defense can often bail them out of trouble.
There’s only one issue. The second-best turnover defense in the NFL is the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers are the number one ranked defense based on DVOA, which could be a challenge for a Cowboys offense that hasn’t been explosive this year and seems to miss Amari Cooper. CeeDee Lamb certainly looked like a star number-one receiver at times, but Michael Gallup’s production never got going after making his return from a torn ACL in the middle of the season.
Dalton Schultz is the team’s second-best receiving option with 57 receptions for 577 yards and five touchdowns, but the next-best receiver is Noah Brown, who had 43 grabs for 555 yards, and three touchdowns. That’s not a truly intimidating group.
Prescott himself struggled at the end of the regular season, throwing at least one interception in each of the last seven regular season games and eight total picks in the last five games of the regular season. He was able to escape the Tampa game without any harm, but the Bucs also ranked 22nd in the NFL in turnover rate and 24th in total interceptions, so they are not the unit that the 49ers are.
On the season, Dallas ranks 15th in offensive DVOA on the season, and the focal point of their offense is the run game, featuring Ezekiel Elliott and the more explosive Tony Pollard.
Pollard went over 1,000 yards on the season, finishing with 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had three 100-yard performances during the season while Elliott had none. Together, they had 1,883 yards on the ground during the season but were only able to manage 104 yards against the Bucs on 28 carries for 3.7 yards.
That’s just not going to cut it on Sunday night, so unless Dallas can get a lot more out of their running game, it’s hard to see them putting up lots of points against this 49ers defense.
Prediction and Betting Pick:
This game is a little too close for me on the spread, but I do like the UNDER here.
San Francisco 23 Dallas 20
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