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Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers preview: Matchups to watch, game info, prediction

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers will renew their rivalry Sunday afternoon in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

San Francisco defeted Dallas on the road in last season’s NFL Wild Card Playoffs after late-game miscue from Dak Prescott led to the Cowboys’ comeback attempt coming up short.

This will represent the ninth time that Dallas and San Francisco has gone up against one another in the postseason. The Cowboys are 5-3 against their counterparts with three of those wins coming during their dynastic run in the 1970s. More recently, the 49ers have won two consecutive playoff games against their rivals.

Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers history in the NFL Playoffs

  • 1970: Dallas 17, San Francisco 10 (NFC Championship)
  • 1971: Dallas 14, San Francisco 3 (NFC Championship)
  • 1972: Dallas 30, San Francisco 28 (NFC Divisional)
  • 1981: San Francisco 28, Dallas 27 (NFC Championship)
  • 1992: Dallas 30, San Francisco 20 (NFC Championship)
  • 1993: Dallas 38, San Francisco 21 (NFC Championship)
  • 1994: San Francisco 38, Dallas 28 (NFC Championship)
  • 2021: San Francisco 23, Dallas 17 (Wild Card)

Dallas heads into this one after blowing out Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs. San Francisco has won 11 consecutive games, including a blowout home victory over the Seattle Seahawks to open the playoffs last Saturday.

It’s in this that we provide you with our wide-ranging preview of what promises to be an epic Cowboys and 49ers matchup in the NFL Divisional Playoffs.

Related: Ranking the four NFL Divisional Playoff games

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers odds

The latest odds for the 49ers and Cowboys matchup are courtesy of BetMGM.

  • Spread: San Francisco 49ers -3.5
  • Point total: 46.5
  • Moneyline: San Francisco 49ers (-185), Dallas Cowboys (+150)

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers game info

nfl divisional playoffs: dallas cowboys at san francisco 49ers
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s everything you need to know before the Cowboys and 49ers do battle in Northern California Sunday afternoon.

  • Time: 6:30 PM ET
  • TV info: FOX
  • Location: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California
  • Date: Sunday, January 22
  • Broadcasters: Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen

Related: NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers matchups to watch

Christian McCaffrey vs Dallas Cowboys pass defense

nfl divisional playoffs: dallas cowboys at san francisco 49ers
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

McCaffrey has been electric since San Francisco acquired him in a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers back in October. In 12 games with the 49ers, the Pro Bowler has registered 1,347 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Last week alone against the Seattle Seahawks, McCaffrey put up 119 rushing yards.

With that said, the focus by Dallas’ defense should be on McCaffrey’s receiving ability. That very same 12-game span has seen CMC catch 54 passes. With rookie Brock Purdy starting his second career playoff game, we expect him to hone in on McCaffrey as an outlet.

Will the ‘Boys have an answer for this? Starting free safety Jayron Kearse is a bit banged up after suffering a knee injury in the wild card round. He also yielded a 68.3% completion when targeted during the regular season. Starting linebackers Leighton Vander Esch (77.4% completion) and Anthony Barr (83.3% completion) weren’t great in coverage during the regular year, either.

Dallas Cowboys left tackle vs Nick Bosa

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoff-San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas started nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters during Monday night’s wild card game against Tampa Bay. He exited with a hip injury and did not return to the mix. At this point, it seems unlikely that the 40-year-old Peters will suit up for Sunday’s matchup against San Francisco.

This will create more changes for the Cowboys’ offensive line in the lead up to a game against the NFL’s top defense. Rookie Tyler Smith will likely start at left tackle in front of Dak Prescott after he manned that position through a majority of the regular season. Veteran Connor McGovern will be inserted in at left guard with future Hall of Famer Tyron Smith playing right tackle.

This is a unit that played together for 11 games during the regular season. Though, it could also create some issues with the onslaught Bosa brings to the table. The likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year led the league in quarterback hits (48) and sacks (18.5) during the regular season. He also recovered a fumble in last week’s win over Seattle.

Prescott was sacked just 20 times in 12 starts during the regular season. This is a testament to how good Dallas’ offensive line was in pass protection. With that said, he did struggle when under pressure. The turnover-prone quarterback was pressured 71 times in 12 games. He completed just 35% of his passes when under pressure.

Related: Find out where the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys defenses rank

Dallas Cowboys running backs vs San Francisco 49ers run defense

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoff-San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco’s defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL during the regular season in stopping the run. Opposing teams averaged 77.7 yards per game and a mere 3.4 yards per rush. This anchored a unit that yielded 10 points or less a whopping five times.

As for the Cowboys, it’s going to be key to get the running game going. Prescott led the NFL with 15 interceptions during the regular season. San Francisco recorded 20 picks. Dallas is 11-3 this season when it puts up north of 100 rushing yards. It is just 2-2 when not reaching that plateau. Meanwhile, San Francisco is 12-1 when it holding opposing teams to under 100 rushing yards. Will it be able to contain the star duo of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott?

Related: Eye-opening stats for the NFL Divisional Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers prediction

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoff-San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Realistically, San Francisco has the widespread advantage in this one. The team is in the midst of an 11-game winning streak that has seen it outscore opponents by north of 16 points per game. In Brock Purdy’s six starts, the 49ers are averaging nearly 35 points. The team is also outscoring its opponents by an average of nearly three touchdowns in its past six home dates.

That’s all fine and dandy. But when looking at a rivalry game of this ilk, a lot of stuff can be thrown out the window. It also must be noted that the 49ers’ defense has given up the big play at times over the past three games or so.

We fully expect Dak Prescott and Dallas’ offense to do what it can to keep this close. Unfortunately, for the ‘Boys, San Francisco’s offense is just too dynamic right now. That will be the difference as the 49ers advance to their third NFC Championship Game in four years while Dallas misses out on Championship Sunday for the 27th consecutive season.

  • Prediction: 49ers 31, Cowboys 27