NFC Divisional Round preview: Cowboys at 49ers pick, line, TV info and trends

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott passes in the pocket as Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White drives in during the second half of an NFL wild-card game Monday in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott passes in the pocket as Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White drives in during the second half of an NFL wild-card game Monday in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers will close out the NFL divisional round of the playoffs with a game in Santa Clara, Calif., beginning late Sunday afternoon.

This is the second consecutive season these two teams will face off in the playoffs, as the 49ers won a wild one last year in the wild-card round, in which clock management doomed the Cowboys.

However, Dallas is trying to do what San Francisco did last season – winning two straight road games in the playoffs to get to the NFC championship game.

Let’s take a closer look at the lines as of Friday afternoon (provided by Caesars Sportsbook) and trends:

(4) DALLAS COWBOYS (13-5) at (2) SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (14-4)

Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. Sunday (Fox).

Line: 49ers by 4.

Over/under: 46.5.

Previous meeting this season: None. The last time these two teams met came in an NFC divisional-round game last season in Dallas, in which the 49ers won, 23-17, on Jan. 16, 2022.

All-time series: Cowboys lead, 19-18-1. In the postseason, the Cowboys lead, 5-3.

Series trends notes: Although the 49ers won last year in the playoffs, this series has been dominated by Dallas over the past two decades, as the Cowboys have won six of the past eight between the two teams. San Francisco won as many as six in a row from 1981 to 1990, including the 1982 playoff game, which was one by “The Catch.”

NFL RANKINGS

Cowboys offense: 9th rushing, 14th passing, 8th overall.

49ers defense: 2nd rushing, 20th passing, 1st overall (and 1st in points allowed).

Cowboys defense: 22nd rushing, 8th passing, 12th overall.

49ers offense: 8th rushing, 13th passing, 5th overall.

COWBOYS TRENDS

  • This will be the 66th postseason game for the Cowboys, and with a win, they would play a third playoff game in the same season for the first time since they won the Super Bowl following the 1995 campaign. They are 15-12 in the divisional round but have lost six in a row. They have made it to the Super Bowl eight times, winning five.
  • This is the second consecutive season Dallas won 12 games in a row, which marks the first time they have accomplished that feat since winning 13, 12, 12 and 12 from 1992 to 1995 with Super Bowl titles in three of those seasons.
  • The Cowboys had multiple win streaks of four or more for the second consecutive season, which is the first time they had done that since 1980 and 1981 under Tom Landry.
  • Last week’s victory against Tampa Bay marked the first time ever the Cowboys had defeated Tom Brady, as they previously were 0-7 against him.
  • Dallas allowed fewer than 20 points in their first five games this season and in six of the first seven. They allowed more than 20 in seven of their 10 and 26 or more in five of them.
  • Despite missing five games this season, Dak Prescott threw more interceptions (15) than any other season in his seven-year career. He also had the lowest yards per attempt (7.3) than any other season and the third-lowest completion percentage (.662).

49ERS TRENDS

  • This is the 60th postseason game in 49ers history, and they are attempting to make it to a conference championship game for the fifth time since the 2011 season. They are 18-8 in the divisional round, which is the most wins in the NFL – two more than Pittsburgh and New England – and 14-3 at home all time.
  • Last week’s victory over Seattle was the fourth straight in a wild-card game for the 49ers. They haven’t lost in the divisional round since falling 31-6 to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in January 2003.
  • The 49ers have now won 11 consecutive games, which is tied for the third-longest in team history and second-best over the course of one season. (They won 18 games in a row from November 1989 to November 1990.) Their 10-game win streak in the regular season was their longest such streak since 1994.
  • The team has won seven consecutive home playoff games, dating back to a 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game in January 1998. The previous season also was the last time they lost at home in the divisional round – also to Green Bay.
  • Brock Purdy became just the 12th quarterback in NFL history to win the first six starts of his career. Interestingly, he needs to win this one to tie his teammate, Jimmy Garoppolo, who won his first seven starts when he was with New England in the 2016 season (two games) and in San Francisco in 2017.

ANALYSIS

This is the second consecutive season these two will meet in a playoff game, but for old dudes like me, it’s tough to believe it hadn’t previously happened since they faced off three straight times in January from 1993 to 1995. Oh wait, maybe that’s because the Cowboys haven’t really played a ton of playoff games since the late 1990s.

I don’t get it. I don’t get this line, and I don’t get the outpouring of love for a mediocre Dallas team that didn’t have a significant win before last week (in my mind) since beating the Giants, 28-20, in Week 12 and rolling over the Vikings, 40-3, the Sunday before that.

But wait, they won 40-34 against Philadelphia on Christmas Eve! Yeah, and they did it against Gardner Minshew (355 yards passing and three total touchdowns) and a banged-up Eagles defense. Other than that, they have losses to Jacksonville and Washington and squeaked by Houston and topped Tennessee with Josh Dobbs making his first NFL start in four years.

Anyone who doesn’t think San Francisco is the (much) better team really should go fly kites or feed the pigeons on the weekends. This is the top-ranked defense in the NFL and second against the run, which will force the Cowboys to lean on Dak Prescott. That’s fine against the leaky sieve known as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but not in Santa Clara.

Besides that, Dallas will not only be on the road on a short week with two fewer days rest than the 49ers, but it will be the fifth week out of six they are away from Jerry World, which means something this time of year.

The only real chance I see for Dallas here is that I could see Brock Purdy having his first “off” game, which could mean two or three turnovers. Still, Christian McCaffrey and the Niners’ running game against the league’s 22-ranked rushing defense should be more than enough to get San Fran to the NFC title game for the second straight year and third time in four seasons.

SCORE PREDICTION: 49ers (-4) 26, Cowboys 13.

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