Following two losses on the bounce the Cowboys got a much-needed bye week. They had a chance to review the film and see just why they gave up 70 points to the Rams and Packers and how they can revitalize their offense.
The 49ers continued their trend of playing poorly and then dragging the scoreline close at the end. They have now lost five games on the trot by three points or fewer, an NFL record, after a 26-24 loss to the Redskins that included a quarterback change.
Strength vs strength
Dallas offensive line haven’t quite clicked as a group yet. Their trio of All-Pros are trying to bed in a new left guard and right tackle, and that lack of continuity has negatively affected the kind of protection they can provide Dak Prescott and the holes they can break open for Ezekiel Elliott.
This week they are facing a unit that has flown under the radar with their brilliance, but are repaying the investment that the 49ers have made, and that is the defensive line. DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Arik Armstead have been lights out this year. While they don’t have the sack total (five between them) to show for it, that has a lot to do with the shockingly poor secondary behind them. When it comes to disrupting and demolishing run games there are few better units than these guys, and Buckner in particular has been a monster in pressuring the passer. This should be a great battle.
Get the ground game working
Dallas’ diminished offense has been a big point of contention. Some of it stems from the lesser play up front, but there has also been a lack of adaptation from last year, they are trying to use a lot of the same looks and it’s not working. Without a dominant ground game, Dak Prescott’s weaknesses have come to the fore as well.
With Elliott getting another two-week stay on his suspension, they have a chance to bring their A-game to Levi’s Stadium and set a tone for the season to come. They need to take it.
Getting the rookie settled
Taking on the Dallas defense is probably the best scenario CJ Beathard could have for his first NFL start. Their secondary is thin, their confidence is shaken, and while the pass rush from DeMarcus Lawrence has been electric so far this season, the rest of the defense hasn’t been so hot at getting to the QB.
We know Kyle Shanahan is a gifted play designer and play caller, but can he massage scenarios to suit Beathard and not give him too much to do? Carlos Hyde will be key to keeping him out of third and long situations, and I expect Pierre Garcon’s safe hands will be a frequent target again.
Matchup to Watch: Dallas offensive line vs San Francisco defensive line
I know I mentioned this before, but this is going to be a defining war in this game. Let’s focus in on DeForest Buckner, who is quietly having a Defensive Player of the Year kind of season. His arm-over move is demolishing guards in pass protection and he is currently second in the NFL in QB hits (13). While he works primarily off the right side of the defense, meaning he won’t face too much of Zack Martin, when they do clash it will be as good a battle as you can get in the trenches this season. Solomon Thomas is really coming along this year and will be a test for Tyron Smith, especially given the situation with his back. Up and down the line this game will be one for the ages.
Fantasy Tip: 49ers QB CJ Beathard
If you are looking for a bye week fill-in for Matthew Stafford or Deshaun Watson, or even a cheap DFS option, then I think Beathard is your man. He put up 245 yards and a score last week coming off the bench, and you know Shanahan will have a few things up his sleeve to keep the Cowboys off balance.
Betting Tip: 49ers (+6)
Not only are underdogs covering at 60% this year, but the 49ers have been within three of each of their last five games. There is a very strong chance of a backdoor in this one, especially with Dallas’ secondary problems, and there is a good chance of an upset too.
Prediction: Dallas 28-24 San Francisco
Beathard has shown enough, together with Carlos Hyde, to be quietly confident that the 49ers offense can keep the scoreboard ticking. I think the defense can do enough to keep Dallas in range, and we know the 49ers have the mentality to avoid blowouts.
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