San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys predictions: Prescott to edge Big D to victory

Finally this famous old rivalry between two of the blue chip teams in the NFL resumes. Who will conquer in their wild card clash?

Twenty-eight years on from the days when the two were seemingly always battling it out for a place in the Super Bowl, the Cowboys and the 49ers are at it again.

Incredibly for such huge successful teams, this is the first time since 1998 when both the Cowboys and 49ers have made the playoffs in the same season, and it's just the second time in eight meetings that they're not fighting for the NFC title.

They played in three straight NFC Championship games, and although it's a bit earlier in the post season this game is every bit as crucial as the old enemies rekindle one of the best rivalries we've seen in the NFL.

The Cowboys: Going the aerial route

Dallas will really like this match-up as it pits their strengths against San Francisco's weaknesses, with QB Dak Prescott having two premier receivers in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb and the Niners are weak defending deep passes.

On defense Dallas also excel in the air, with Trevon Diggs leading the NFL with 11 interceptions and despite an heroic final drive against the Rams last week, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is still seen as the weaker facet of their offense.

Ezekiel Elliott had another 1,000-yard rushing season but the game-breaking ability from the wideouts and their ball hawking defense are the keys to glory for Dallas.

The 49ers: The Deebo Samuel experience

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel has emerged as one of the most devastating offensive playmakers in the league after the 49ers figured out that the quick and powerful receiver could be absolute dynamite when used as a running back.

Samuel's broken records for rushing as a receiver, and he even threw a TD pass against the Rams last week! He's the perfect X-Factor in Kyle Shanahan's exotic run scheme that just keeps teams guessing play after play.

Shanahan took the Niners to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, before injuries decimated their chances last year, but many of those main pieces are still there - including Nick Bosa, who has 15.5 sacks this season and if he can get in Prescott's face early and often then the visitor are in business.

Cowboys vs 49ers key stats

  • Deebo Samuel was third in the NFL with 1,770 scrimmage yards - and one of just two players to score six or more rushing TDs and six or more receiving TDs along with Austin Ekeler.
  • Samuel's eight rushing TDs this season are the most ever by a wide receiver. He's also the first player in NFL history to record over 1,400 receiving yards (1,405) and 300 rushing yards (365) in a season.
  • Defensive lineman Nick Bosa was joint-first in the NFL with a career-best 21 tackles for loss, and fourth with 15.5 sacks.
  • Dallas won the NFC East for the first time since 2018 and led the league in scoring offense (31.2 points per game), total offense (407.0 yards per game) and takeaways (34).
  • Dak Prescott threw a Cowboys record 37 TD passes this season.
  • Trevon Diggs had a league-best 11 interceptions, which is the most in one season since 1981.
  • Linebacker Micah Parsons had 13 sacks, the joint third-most by an NFL rookie since 1982.

Cowboys vs 49ers big match-ups

San Francisco 49ers, QB, Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy G against this Cowboys secondary will be crucial - the Niners run game will do their business but at some point the QB will have to make a play. He had the drive of his career last week and since Week 9 had the third-highest passer rating in the league.

Many aren't convinced though and they're facing a side that's had two or more takeaways in 12 games this season, and with the 49ers 2-6 when they turn the ball over two or more times in a game and 8-1 when they don't - it's clear ball security is key.

Prescott versus Bosa will be a good battle but Dallas rookie sensation Micah Parsons possibly chasing down Deebo Samuel will be a sight to behold.

Parsons is a freak and will be all over the field, but at some stage he'll come face-to-face with another supreme athlete in Samuel - the collision will be breathtaking.

Planet Sport verdict

This should be a lot closer than the bookies make it and if last week told us anything it's that Garoppolo, even with that damaged thumb, can produce a game-winning drive. Whether he can do it against this defense in the playoffs is another matter.

And whether the Niners can limit Prescott enough to keep up with their run game is debatable. This could go either way, but we'll go for the home team at a push.

Prediction: 49ers 24-31 Cowboys