Cowboys vs. 49ers: Here's preview of highly-anticipated matchup between San Francisco and Dallas

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Friday, January 20, 2023
Cowboys vs. 49ers: Preview of highly-anticipated matchup
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It's a peak 90s rivalry renewed, here's a preview of this weekend's matchup between the 49ers and Cowboys.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In what's probably the most highly-anticipated game of this weekend's NFL playoff matchups, the San Francisco 49ers will host a familiar foe and longtime rival the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.

The Niners come into this game with 11 straight wins, while the Cowboys are riding a high after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14.

Purdy, the rookie third-string quarterback, faces his toughest test when he faces Micah Parsons and a relentless defense. The Cowboys (13-5) dominated Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. But the 49ers have far more options on offense, including Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.

Dallas is at a disadvantage after playing on the road Monday night. Meanwhile, the 49ers played last Saturday, so they have two extra days of rest.

Opening line: SF -4.5 (45.5)

Why the 49ers will win: No matter how you want to divide the credit between Purdy, the incredible supporting cast and Shanahan, the 49ers' offense has been outrageous since the seventh-round rookie QB took over as the starter. With Purdy on the field, San Francisco averages 0.19 expected points added (EPA) per play. For context, the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes average 0.18.

Oh, and it's quite possible that the offense is the 49ers' worse side of the ball. No team recorded a better EPA per play on defense this season than San Francisco, which excelled against both the run and the pass. From Nick Bosa to Fred Warner to Dre Greenlaw to Talanoa Hufanga, this defense can get the 49ers a win even if the offense has an off day. I like the 49ers' chances to win at the line of scrimmage when Dallas is on offense and force some Prescott turnovers.

Why the Cowboys will win: When it's clicking for Dallas on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys are dangerous. It's not just theoretical; we've seen it in their blowout wins over the Vikings and Colts this season. TheCowboys' wild-card dominance displayed it too.Prescott was on fire, delivering downfield strikes to wideoutCeeDee Lamb and tight endDalton Schultz, and running backTony Pollard was efficient in the ground game.

The Cowboys' defense forced more turnovers (33) than anyone this season, a crucial element to any recipe for victory over a team as potent as the 49ers.Parsons has to beat Niners offensive tackleTrent Williams, disruptPurdy and force mistakes. If Parsons does that, and the offense can keep playing the way it did against the Bucs, Dallas can win. But it has to be an A-game performance for the Cowboys.

ESPN contributed to this article.

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