Playoff football is almost here. We’re in for a good one in Dallas this weekend, as the Cowboys and 49ers square off in the Wild Card Round.
Before the rivals face off, here are three bold predictions for Sunday’s matchup.
1) Deebo Samuel causes problems for the Cowboys defense, finding the end zone twice
Containing Deebo Samuel should be Dallas’ number one priority coming into this game. The 25-year-old receiver/running back hybrid has turned into quite the player and is clearly the biggest weapon San Francisco has to offer on the offensive side of the ball.
Our very own Tony Catalina dubbed Samuel as the 49ers’ X-Factor in Sunday’s game. Here’s what he had to say about Samuel.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a football player. Deebo Samuel can do it all and the 49ers use him like that. Whether it’s his traditional role as a wide receiver, or in the backfield taking hand offs, this offense goes as Samuel goes. He is dynamic and a home run threat every time he touches the football, as well as being one of the toughest players in the league. The Cowboys are absolutely going to have their hands full when he is on the field.
How the Cowboys fare containing Samuel will go a long way in determining the way this game goes. There are obviously other weapons that the 49ers have to their disposal, but Samuel feels like the heart and soul of this offense and they want to feed through him in order to get a spark and keep him involved. The Cowboys defense better be ready to go all day long because Samuel will be looking to snatch the Cowboys’ Super Bowl chances before they really even begin.
In the final eight games of the season, the former second-round pick caught 28 passes for 523 yards and ran the ball 53 times for a total of 343 yards. Samuel’s 18.68 Y/R and 6.47 Y/A on the ground show just how much of a big-play threat he truly is.
If the 49ers want a chance in this game, they need Samuel to have a big day. The versatile weapon is going to cause problems for the Cowboys all day long, recording over 100 yards from scrimmage and finding the end zone twice.
2) Amari Cooper has his best game of the season, recording over 125 receiving yards and scoring two touchdowns
If the Cowboys want to make a deep postseason run, they absolutely need Amari Cooper to be a big part of their offense. Cooper performed pretty well in the final three games of the regular season, catching 15 passes for 182 yards and scoring two touchdowns, but Dallas needs to find ways to get Cooper the ball even more.
Here again to say Amari Cooper needs more targets pic.twitter.com/KR5sz9Z1Ke— Dallas Dondarrion (@Dondarrionn) January 10, 2022
Getting the four-time Pro Bowler the ball was something the Cowboys struggled with throughout the season. Eight times this year Cooper caught three or fewer passes in a game, and he went over 100 receiving yards just twice. His last 100-yard performance came against Minnesota, all the way back in Week 8.
We’ve seen Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense make a concerted effort to get Cooper more involved in the past few weeks, and that will pay off on Sunday against the 49ers. San Francisco’s secondary is clearly the weakest unit on their defense, and they’ve given up 54 explosive pass plays on the season, via Sharp Football Stats.
Cooper and the Cowboys will take advantage of the lack of talent in the 49ers’ secondary, and it will lead to a big offensive day. Cooper exceeds 100 receiving yards for the first time since October and finds the end zone twice.
3) Greg Zuerlein earns his redemption, converting a game-winning field goal.
Greg Zuerlein’s struggled have been a big topic of conversation this week. The 34-year-old kicker has missed six field goals and six extra points on the season, including a crucial miss two weeks ago against the Cardinals.
Despite Zuerlein’s struggles, Mike McCarthy and John Fassel both reaffirmed their faith in the veteran kicker this week.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said kicker Greg Zuerlein is a “pro from every angle. …If anything, you have to watch that he doesn’t do too much” in his preparation. “I have great confidence in him. He’ll be ready to go Sunday.”— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) January 10, 2022
Cowboys ST coach John Fassel confident in K Greg Zuerlein despite 6 missed PATs, 6 missed FGs in regular season. Takes misses to heart but believes Greg is capable, reliable option.— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 10, 2022
"If I'm wrong, then I'll be wrong. But I really think I'm going to be right. I guess we'll see." pic.twitter.com/b202wnPNUa
It’s been a season full of ups and downs for the veteran, but Sunday’s game will bring his biggest moment. The former All-Pro will have his biggest moment as a Cowboy, kicking a game-winning field goal as time expires to move Dallas into the Divisional Round.