NFL

A rivalry renewed: Cowboys host 49ers in classic NFC matchup

Dak Prescott Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott take on the 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Round.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Cowboys NFC Wild Card preview

  • When: Sunday, Jan. 16, 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
  • TV: CBS

If this isn’t the perfect opportunity to teach the younger generation of football fans about some of the glory days of the NFL, then don’t bother watching Sunday afternoon’s NFC Wild Card tilt between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys.

Two of the most historic, successful teams of the game that aren’t short of classic postseason meetings will square off for an eighth time in the playoffs. The Cowboys currently hold a 5-2 edge.

There were two-straight NFC Championship meetings in 1970-1971. There was “The Catch” from Dwight Clark in the 1981 conference title game. There were three-straight NFC Championship meetings between the two from 1992 to 1994 — the Cowboys owning a 2-1 advantage.

They boast 10 Super Bowl titles — five each — between them, 15 NFC championships, and they haven’t played each other in the playoffs in 27 years.

Neither team has won a Super Bowl since the mid-90s, though the 49ers do have a pair of conference titles to boast over Dallas in the past decade. Meanwhile, this is just the Cowboys’ fourth playoff appearance since 2014 and they haven’t advanced past the Divisional Round since winning Super Bowl XXX in 1996.

But it all came together for Dallas this season, nabbing the No. 3 seed in the NFC by dominating a weak NFC East and going 12-5 — its most wins in a season since posting 13 in 2016.

The Cowboys’ offense is the No. 1 unit in football behind the offensive genius of coordinator Kellen Moore. Quarterback Dak Prescott came back better than ever after a gruesome leg injury last year; running back Ezekiel Elliott is back in the 1,o00-yard club; and four pass-catchers recorded more than 600 yards this season.

There’s finesse. There’s poetry in motion. There are show-stopping displays of skill.

And then there are the 49ers, whose defense has yielded the third-fewest points in football this season with an offense whose brand of “bully ball” has beaten up and bruised opponents all season.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo SamuelJayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While uncertainty has plagued the quarterback position, the in-your-face 49ers have the No. 7 rushing offense in all of football and have been hot as of late. Winning seven of their last nine games, their offense is averaging 158 rushing yards per victory during that stretch — a staunch test for a Cowboys defense that ranked 16th against the rush this year.

But San Francisco’s hopes will likely rest on the playmaking abilities of Deebo Samuel — the dual-threat wide-receiver who posted 1,770 yards from scrimmage this season.

Let the smack-talking begin.

“I’m from Harrisburg, where the bullies get bullied,” Cowboys rookie star linebacker Micah Parsons said, according to Michael Gehlke of The Dallas Morning News. “There’s a bully in every gym. … At one point, it’s going to take somebody to stand up and fight. I ain’t ever back down from a challenge.”

49ers vs. Cowboys NFC Wild Card Tale of the Tape

No. 6 49ers Stat No. 3 Cowboys
10-7 (3rd, NFC West) Record 12-5 (1st NFC East)
25.1 (13th in NFL) Points/game 31.2 (1st in NFL)
248.3 (12th in NFL) Passing yards/game 282.4 (2nd in NFL)
127.4 (7th in NFL) Rushing yards/game 124.6 (9th in NFL)
21.5 (9th in NFL) Points allowed/game 21.1 (7th in NFL)
206.5 (6th in NFL) Passing yards allowed/game 238.2 (20th in NFL)
103.5 (7th in NFL) Rushing yards allowed/game 112.8 (16th in NFL)

49ers vs. Cowboys NFC Wild Card Players to Watch

  • Deebo Samuel, WR, SF: 77 receptions, 1,405 receiving yards, 59 carries, 365 rushing yards, 14 total TD
  • Elijah Mitchell, RB, SF: 11 games, 963 rushing yards, 5 TD
  • George Kittle, TE, SF: 71 receptions, 910 yards, 6 TD
  • Nick Bosa, DE, SF: 15.5 sacks, 52 tackles, 32 QB hits, 21 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles
  • Dak Prescott, QB, DAL: 68.8% completion rating, 4,449 yards, 37 TD, 10 INT
  • Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL: 237 carries, 1,002 rushing yards, 47 receptions, 287 receiving yards, 12 total TD
  • CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL: 79 receptions, 1,102 yards, 6 TD
  • Trevon Diggs, DAL, CB: 52 tackles, 11 INT, 2 TD, 21 passes defended

49ers vs. Cowboys NFC Wild Card odds

  • Spread: Cowboys -3
  • Over/under: 50.5
  • 49ers Moneyline: +145
  • Cowboys Moneyline: -165
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