Jimmy Garoppolo makes his return to the playoffs as the San Francisco 49ers travel to Jerry World in Arlington, Texas to take on the red-hot Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round of the 2022 NFL Playoffs.
San Francisco ended its season on a high note with a 27-24 overtime road win over the NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers won four of their last five games in the regular season and are playing really good football on both sides of the ball.
The Cowboys cruised to the NFC East title this season and crushed the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 18 with Dallas playing its starters — Dak Prescott threw five touchdowns — and the Eagles resting theirs. The Cowboys ended the season well, winning five of six down the stretch.
Game: San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
Location: AT&T Stadium
Day/Time: Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys NFC Wild Card 2022
Tale of Two Seasons
You can break up the 49ers’ regular season into two distinct campaigns. The first ended after San Francisco’s Week 9 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in what was a pretty poor effort on both ends and dropped the 49ers to 3-5. San Francisco got smoked by Colt McCoy, James Conner, Eno Benjamin and Christian Kirk while the 49ers were held to just 39 rushing yards.
The second campaign started with the 49ers’ Week 10 blowout win over the Rams on Monday Night Football. That game kick-started a 7-2 season-ending stretch for San Francisco in which the 49ers went 3-0 against playoff teams and came within three points of beating another (the Tennessee Titans).
They have looked like a completely different team since hitting rock bottom and while Garoppolo’s numbers haven’t always been pretty, he has done his job of leading the 49ers by getting the ball into the hands of his top weapons — Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Elijah Mitchell.
There’s a reason the Cowboys aren’t favored by much against San Francisco and that’s because the 49ers are much better than their 10-7 record suggests. This should be a close game and, if you’re making NFL predictions, it’s one that the 49ers will have a chance at winning late in the fourth quarter, even with all their injuries.
Cowboys Struggled Against Good Teams
It’s tough to argue with the Cowboys’ No. 1 scoring and yardage offense but it’s not tough to argue with how relatively untested they have been this season. Dallas is 2-0 against the playoff-bound Eagles, yes, but one of those games was against Gardner Minshew and the backups, and Philadelphia is only in the playoffs because of the expanded format. Otherwise, Dallas’ only win over a playoff team was a Week 5 overtime victory over the New England Patriots.
The Cowboys lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders and Arizona Cardinals, all playoff teams who gave Dallas fits during their matchups. The bigger concern in those games has been on the defensive side of things. Dallas gives up a lot of yards — 20th in passing yards allowed, 16th in rushing yards allowed, 19th in total yards allowed — and the bend-don’t-break philosophy only works until it doesn’t.
Dallas could have issues with the 49ers’ top-seven rushing attack and with San Francisco’s relatively average but efficient — first in net yards per passing attempt — passing game. Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons can swing a game with a big pick or strip sack. However, they’ll need to play well every play to stop San Francisco from marching down the field.
Game Will Be Close
If you’re betting online, take the 49ers to cover the slim spread. The moneyline isn’t a bad idea — +140 is good value — but, to be safe, you can go with the spread at a favorable -105 value. Coach Kyle Shanahan is sure to have some special plays up his sleeve to throw off the Cowboys and he can use Samuel in a variety of ways around the field.
San Francisco needs to be creative to overcome Dallas’ defensive talent but, if there’s someone to do it, it’s Shanahan. He could even utilize some packages with rookie Trey Lance to increase the play diversity for the 49ers.
On the other side of the ball, San Francisco has a ton of talent in the front seven to pressure Prescott and keep running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in check. Nick Bosa needs to have a big game against Dallas’ great offensive line in order to keep the Cowboys off rhythm and prevent Prescott from going down the field for big plays. But, if anyone can do that, it’s Bosa and his 15.5 sacks.