The Dallas Cowboys are one of only three NFL teams this weekend who are home underdogs, a dubious distinction they share with the Dolphins and the Falcons. The Cowboys are 4.5-point underdogs against the 49ers, which is quite a lot given that the odds makers generally start with a base three-point advantage for home teams in the NFL. The Vegas odds would suggest that on a neutral field, the 49ers would beat the Cowboy by more than a touchdown. The over/under is set at a relatively high 51.5, the third highest value on opening weekend, an indication that offensive fireworks (or defensive ineptitude, take your pick) could be in the works for Sunday.
We'll see about that.
Here's what our panel of experts thinks will happen on Sunday afternoon:
|Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk||28-24||I think the Cowboys are going to be better than most people expect this year, with DeMarco Murray running behind a good offensive line and giving them a balanced attack on offense. And I think the 49ers are going to be worse than most people expect this year, with the absence of NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith at the start of the season hurting their defense. So I’m picking Dallas.|
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News
|48-28||It's that gold-rushing young prospector Colin Kaepernick vs. that wily six-shooting hombre, Tony Romo. And around these parts we call Jerry World, it's a real defensive Ghost Town. These here teams have played many classics over the years, but the Niners will be a lot faster on the draw this time.|
|John Breech, CBSSports||24-20||The Cowboys defense was bad last year and it most likely won't be good this year. But the 49ers defense also has holes to fill with Glenn Dorsey, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman all getting set to miss substantial time this season. If there was something important on the line in this game -- like a playoff berth -- I'd pick against Tony Romo 107 times out of 107 times, but there's not a playoff berth on the line and the game's in Dallas. Also, Jerry Jones said the Cowboys might be bad this year and he's knows nothing about football, which means they're going to be good.|
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
||24-20||It’s been a long time since these were the best two teams in the NFC. The Cowboys could take a major step back from their perpetual 8-8 record, and the 49ers may be unable to get close to another NFC title game. In fact, there’s a chance that the Cowboys could win this one. I thought about making that pick. And then I remembered how bad the defense is.|
Peter Schrager, Foxsports
||34-24||The 49ers haven’t looked the part this preseason and there are legitimate question marks at several key positions. Meanwhile, I think the Dallas offense could be the best outside of Philadelphia in the NFC, and their defensive personnel this season may fit the 4-3 better scheme than who they had on the roster a season ago. My guy to watch? Linebacker Rolando McClain, a former first round pick who hasn't played in a meaningful game since 2012. Out of football a year ago at this time, Mclain may be the most important piece to the Cowboys D this season. I know everyone else seems to think the sky is falling in Dallas. If Tony Romo’s healthy this season, they’re going to put up big points. Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar, coupled with one of the top offensive lines in the game, and DeMarco Murray in the backfield should get it done. Look for them in my upset special on Sunday.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
||30-21||The Dallas defense is terrible, but the Cowboys will score a lot on offense. The 49ers' defense won't be as good as past years, so look for Tony Romo to hit some downfield shots. The problem is the Cowboys will have trouble stopping the 49ers.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
||29-23||Yes, you read that score right: I'm calling another upset. The Cowboys' offense will simply be too much for a San Francisco defense missing some key playmakers. The Niners' back four in particular will be tested all day long in Dallas.
Tony Romo might throw a late-game boneheaded pick, but he'll have enough time to work behind a suddenly strong offensive line. Dez Bryant, meanwhile, is a mismatch for any player in the Niners' secondary. And to all those people burying veteran San Francisco running back Frank Gore, I'll say that I think he'll pick up 90 yards on one of the worst defenses in football (including the college ranks, too).
Greg Cote, Miami Herald
||27-24||I’m on record here: Dallas has a legit, sizable outright upset shot because Tony Romo can put up a bunch of points and San Fran has taken some body blows on defense, and the combo should make it an interesting game. (Over/under on TV mentions or sideline shots of ’Boys practice-squad player Michael Sam: 32). Dallas’ defense just looks awful, though.|
Aaron Nagler, Cheese- head.TV
||n.a.||All the issues with the 49ers defensive personnel makes me think this could turn into a shootout. I know it sounds crazy, but I think that totally favors the Cowboys.
I can’t believe I’m going to take a Jason Garrett-coached team over a Jim Harbaugh-coached one…but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Cowboys in a barn burner.
What looks like a pretty even split in the comments above looks very different in the addtional summary of picks for the weekend, none of which provide a specific soundbite for their picks. The last column in the table shows how accurate these panels were in predicting the correct outcome of Cowboys games last year.
|Site||Cowboys||49ers||Cowboys 2013 Season
|Pro Football Focus||2||6||.727 (93-35)|
|USA Today||0||7||.688 (77-35)|
|Dallas Morning News||2||7||.685 (89-41)|
|NFL Around The League||1||4||.646 (51-28)|
|SB Nation||1||6||- -|
Summing up all the predictions we've polled above, the Cowboys look like the clear underdogs, but so what? Anything can happen on opening weekend. Heck, anything can happen when the Cowboys play, period - they've not exactly been a model of consistency over the last few years.
Do you think the Cowboys can pull off the upset?