San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys Prediction: Can the 49ers Pull Off the Upset?

NFL expert Mike Spector analyzes the NFC Wild Card matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys.
Mike Spector |
Wed, January 12, 9:05 AM EST | 5 min read
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San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys Prediction: Can the 49ers Pull Off the Upset?

The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys are two of the four most winningest franchises in terms of Super Bowl titles. Each team is talented enough to win the four games necessary to add a sixth Lombardi Trophy to their trophy case. So which of these two teams will win what should be a hotly contested NFC Wild Card matchup? 

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San Francisco 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys INJURY REPORT

SAN FRANCISCO:

QUESTIONABLE: RB Elijah Mitchell, OT Trent Williams, DT Maurice Hurst, LB Marcell Harris, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, S Jaquiski Tartt

OUT: WR Mohamed Sanu Jr., RB Trey Sermon

DALLAS:

Questionable: RB Tony Pollard, CB Trevon Diggs, S Tyler Coyle, LB Keanu Neal, 

OUT: S Jayron Kearse, WR Michael Gallup

San Francisco 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys Line Movement

San Francisco 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys Prediction

This matchup between the 49ers and the Cowboys is the only Wild Card Round game that is not a rematch of a game played in the regular season. So while we do not have any head-to-head data to scope, we must look at this game from various angles.

San Francisco arguably played a playoff game last week, as they needed to win (especially since the Saints won) to clinch a playoff spot. Not only did they defeat the team that was their division champion, but the 49ers also swept the season series versus the Rams for the third consecutive year. Thus, San Francisco enters their second postseason under head coach Kyle Shanahan with a ton of confidence and momentum from last week’s “win or go home” scenario. 

Conversely, Dallas’ game last week against Philadelphia did not mean much for anything other than seeding as they had already wrapped up the NFC East. However, despite being down several key defensive starters, the offense more than picked up the slack, as they scored 50 or more points for the second time in three weeks.

While Dallas’ 25-point win over the Eagles was eye-popping, it does beg the question, are the Cowboys simply the king of what was a mediocre division this year? Dallas went 6-0 against the NFC East, the only team in the league to go undefeated against their division rivals. The Cowboys scored 40.0 PPG in those six games and had a +22.2 PPG differential. However, against all other opponents, the Cowboys went just 6-5 and averaged 26.4 PPG, and had a +3.6 PPG differential.

A big key to Dallas’ success this season has been its running game, and the Cowboys are 11-0 when rushing for 100 yards. On the other hand, they are 0-5 when they rush 20 or fewer times. However, change-of-pace running back Tony Pollard was a big key to Dallas’ running game versatility, but with him not 100% healthy, we do not trust Ezekiel Elliott to be an effective workhorse running back in this matchup.

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Many will be confident in Dak Prescott carrying the load offensively for the Cowboys, given his 12 touchdown passes and 283.7 passing yards per game over the last three weeks. However, the 49ers have an underrated pass defense that ranks sixth in the league, allowing 206.5 passing yards per game this season.

Many will also cite a lack of confidence in Jimmy Garoppolo as a reason to fade the 49ers. However, Garoppolo was as clutch as can be last week despite battling through a thumb injury. He went 11-15 for 176 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime of last week’s win. However, he will not have to do it all by himself, as San Francisco’s running game found its footing in a big way last week.

In the first half against Los Angeles, San Francisco had a designed run percentage of 28% and totaled ten rushing yards and one yard before contact (the fewest-ever in a half under Shanahan). In the second half and overtime, the 49ers had a designed running percentage of 54% and 125 total rushing yards, 64 of which came before contact. 

The 49ers have been a nightmare to prepare for ever since they started getting creative with how they use wide receiver, Deebo Samuel. Samuel became the first wide receiver since David Patten in 2001 to throw and run for a touchdown in the same game. And entering last week, the 49ers averaged six yards per play since Week 10 when Samuel lined up in the backfield.

Two weeks ago, another NFC West team (Arizona) upset Dallas on the strength of a running game that totaled 127 yards on the ground and 4.0 yards per carry. The physical 49ers running attack can similarly exploit Dallas’ defense, which will carry them to a first-round upset.

San Francisco 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys Pick

  • PICK: 49ERS ML (+150)

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Mike Spector
@MikeSpector01

Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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