Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers: What to watch for

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 02: (R-L) Running backs Ezekiel Elliott
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 02: (R-L) Running backs Ezekiel Elliott /

Coming off a bye week and in desperate need of a win, the Dallas Cowboys visit the winless 49ers, hoping to start a win streak. Here’s what to watch for…

I’m pretty sure if you took a poll of football experts, as well as Dallas Cowboys fans, few would have thought this team would be 2-3 after five games.

Yet, that is exactly where Dallas is, coming of their bye week.  After back to back home losses,  in which the offense scored 30+ points, the Cowboys hit the road.

The road will be a familiar spot for this team over the next month.  Three of their next four games are away from AT&T Stadium.  If ever there was a time to right the ship, one would think San Francisco would be a good place to start.

The Cowboys have won three straight games in San Francisco, including a 24-17 victory last year.  The 49ers have not won a game yet this season.  Dallas is coming off rest while the 49ers have played three straight road games.

Almost every conceivable angle in this matchup leans positively towards the Cowboys.

Unfortunately, even with all that going for them, this game will likely not be an easy victory.  In preparation for this afternoon battles between old rivals, here’s what to watch for:

  • Even with the 49ers having a winless start, they have managed to keep things interesting.  Aside from their week one loss, they haven’t lost a game by more than three points.  They may not win, but they don’t go away easy.

That fact alone should keep Cowboys fans from breathing easily.  Sadly, the Cowboys have shown a penchant for letting teams off the hook.  In their last two losses, Dallas has had a double-digit lead, only to see it vanish as the game nears the end.

If the Dallas Cowboys are to get back into the win column, they will need to be a lot better at closing out games.  Most will expect Dallas to have a lead in this game as well.  The question will be whether or not they can keep it.

  • You do not have to look too hard into why San Francisco is 0-6.  This team does not do any one thing very well offensively,  They are 20th in passing, 23rd in rushing, 25th in scoring and 30th in third down conversions.

If the Cowboys are to get any confidence back on defense, this would seem like the team to help.  Dallas will have Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens at linebacker together for the first time in 2017.  The secondary, aside from Chido Awuzie, is completely healthy as well.  David Irving should have his conditioning right too.

If the 49ers score more than their 18.8 average, this defense may never figure it out.

  • When the Cowboys have the ball, it will be interesting to see if this is the breakout game for Ezekiel Elliott.  Zeke has had one absolute nightmare of a game, a couple of nice games and a couple of average ones.  With another stay of execution as it pertains to his on again/off again suspension, is this when the big game happens?

Last season, Elliott hit San Francisco for almost 160 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.  With an offensive line needing a little confidence boost as well, today could be a big one for 21.

  • I’m curious to see how the Dallas Cowboys perform today, possibly moreso than any other game.  Why?  This team likes to think of itself as a playoff team with higher aspirations.  Really good teams dominate teams they “should” beat.

Last year, Dallas played four teams who went on to win six or less games.  Dallas was 4-0 in those games, winning by an average score of 25-15.  All but one victory was fourteen or more points.

This season, Dallas has just one game so far against a “bad” team and followed suit.  With a 19-3 win over the Giants, the Cowboys did what they were supposed to do.  Will they dominate a winless 49ers squad playing a rookie quarterback getting his first NFL start?

Next: Five Cowboys who will shine against the 49ers

Plain and simple, the Dallas Cowboys have to win this game.  Dallas should win this game.  They are the better team with more weapons and more continuity.  They are fresher and should be starving for success.

A loss does not end the season but it would be a huge blow to any playoff hopes.

The prediction:  Cowboys 34, 49ers 20