On paper, the matchup between the Cowboys and 49ers on Sunday is a matchup of a 2-1 and a 1-2 team, which suggests that the two teams are separated by just win. Which is true enough, but if you consider that the Cowboys won their last two games and the 49ers lost their last two games, then this is also a matchup of two teams on vastly different trajectories.
The Cowboys won their last two games by a combined score of 58-40, while the 49ers lost theirs by a combined score of 45-83. There are many ways in which to assess the strength of each team, one of which is by using the Pythagorean Formula to make a win projection for each team (read up on all the details of the formula here). Here's what that projection looks like, based on each team's point differential over the last two games:
|Pythagorean Win Projection by Week 2 & 3 performance
|Team||Points For||Points Against||Full season win projection|
Based on each team's last two games, the Cowboys have to be considered strong favorites to win on Sunday, and even if we plug in all three games into the formula, the Cowboys (10.3-win projection) still hold an edge over the 49ers (6.8).
But which teams will show up in Week 4? Will it be the teams from the season opener (the 49ers blanketed the Rams 28-0 while the Cowboys lost to the Giants by one point) or will it be the teams of the last two weeks?
We'll find out Sunday. In the meantime, here's what our panel of experts expects to happen today.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
||29-21||In a game we'll call rivalry-esque, the Cowboys face the 49ers in NorCal for the first time in five years. The last time Dallas played there, the not-clutch, never-wins-a-game-in-the-waning moments Tony Romo won the game late in the fourth quarter with broken ribs and a punctured lung, throwing a pivotal pass to a reality show star. Ahh, facts never fit the sports narrative, do they? This time around, Dak Prescott gets the call, and I don't envision him having to win it for the Cowboys at the end. If the 49ers' front struggled with the Seahawks' offensive line last week, wait until they get a load of these guys. Look out for Vance McDonald, as the Dallas defense has struggled with the tight end in recent weeks.|
Peter Schrager, Foxsports
||16-13||Fun nugget I read this week in the millions of Vin Scully articles on the Internet. His last football game for CBS was the 1981 NFC Championship game, and he was on the call for "The Catch." Amazing. I don’t see this one having quite the same stakes, and I actually like the 49ers to get the best of the banged-up Cowboys in that FOX doubleheader late window. Carlos Hyde wins the battle of great Ohio State running backs over Zeke Elliott.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald
||23-20||"Aaawwwk!" trills the Upset Bird. "San Franciscaaawwwk!" No one game really jumped up and sang the Upset Bird’s name this week, so I’ll admit this is more hunch than conviction — and a hunch that relies on Frans’ run-D finding a way to limit Ezekiel Elliott. Dak Prescott is due for a rookie moment or two, especially because I don’t expect Dez Bryant to play. And Carlos Hyde could run big vs. a ’Boys ground defense giving up 5 yards per carry.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
||21-20||The 49ers are 1-2 and have looked awful at times on offense. The Cowboys have played well on offense with Dak Prescott, but now there are three games of tape on him. That can matter. Look for the 49ers to keep it close.|
|Sam Farmer, LA Times||28-21||The "Dak Attack" — rookie quarterback Dak Prescott — is rolling for the Cowboys. The 49ers have a solid front seven, but that didn’t show up against Seattle. The Cowboys’ line is too good.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
||20-17||No Romo, no Dez. No problem, for the 49ers — especially since coach Chip Kelly knows the Cowboys well after playing them six times in three years with the Eagles.|
David Steele, Sporting News
||34-27||More help easing Dak Prescott into the job. The Giants defense is far from the LT-era unit, but it runs circles around the other two teams the Cowboys have played so far, Washington and Chicago. The 49ers, who got worked by a one-legged Russell Wilson, aren’t much on defense, either. Prescott and his offense can go to town.|
Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk
||20-10||That 28-0 49ers win in Week One feels like it was from some alternate universe, because in the two weeks since then the 49ers have looked like they’d struggle to beat a college team by 28 points.|
|Chris Simms, Bleacher Report||- -||
I've been critical of the Cowboys' rah-rah defense in weeks past. It's all effort and no game-planning. No one can deny the Cowboys play hard on defense, though. They're undermanned, undersized and in a scheme that doesn't force offenses to adjust much. Yet the Cowboys are not breaking when opponents get in scoring range. That'll be the story again in Week 4. Blaine Gabbert doesn't have the wherewithal to march repeatedly down the field against the Cowboys. Dak Prescott will hit a handful of throws they need him to and ice another win.
80% of the experts and algorithms tallied by NFLPickwatch.com favor the Cowboys over the 49ers on Sunday, and most the experts above seem to expect a close game.
What's your take on the game: nail-biter or blowout?