The Dallas Cowboys are set to open the 2014 NFL season this Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys haven’t been completely written off for Week One, but there is not much optimism surrounding the team outside of Dallas. Dallas has the upper hand in a few areas over San Francisco. I’m not saying they are a lock to win, but key loses to the Bay-area’s team could equal a big opening win for Big “D”. Here are the details.
San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith was handed a nine game suspension due to multiple offseason incidents. This is a huge win for Dallas, because like you probably already know, Smith is a disruptive force when he’s on the field. In the last three seasons, Smith has racked up 137 tackles and 42 sacks. In 2012 alone he amassed 66 tackles and 19.5 sacks. It’s got to be a huge relief to not have to worry about a player of his caliber, and will help out the Cowboys offense across the board.
Another key defensive player that will not be on the field for San Francisco is linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Another sigh of relief comes from the Dallas sideline, as Bowman is a tackling machine. In the past three seasons, he has piled up an amazing 436 total tackles. That’s an average of 145 tackles per season, which equates to just over nine per game. The last time these two teams met, he racked up 11 total tackles against Dallas.
Just because these two defenders are going to be absent, doesn’t mean the 49ers’ defense is one to overlook. They still have playmakers, like linebacker Patrick Willis, who can cause the Dallas offense issues. It’s also great to read, in a recent story by Dallas Cowboys.com writer Rowan Kavner, that the team is not sleeping on their opponent. And they plan to be ready to go against a talented unit. Here’s a snippet worth reading from the piece:
“We know they have a lot of guys,” running back DeMarco Murray said. “Great defense, great offense. Whoever they put in, it’s next guy up. I’m sure he’ll be just as good as those guys. We’re preparing just like anyone else. We’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. We’re not worried about who’s playing, who’s not. That’s out of our control.”
Dallas isn’t a lock to win on Sunday. But just as the Cowboys defense hasn’t played up to snuff in recent years due to missing players, you have to feel a little more confident knowing the opponent won’t have two of their best defensive difference makers on the field.