The Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs will feature the Dallas Cowboys versus the San Francisco 49ers among the two games, with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants contesting the other game. Obviously the Eagles and the Giants have a long history with each other being in the NFC East, but the Cowboys have a long rivalry going with the 49ers, especially in the playoffs.
The Cowboys are currently 3.5-point underdogs to the 49ers in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook, but just a year ago the 49ers were the underdogs by roughly three points and having to travel to Dallas. We all know that ended up in a 23-17 49ers victory. That Wild Card game from last year was just one of eight times the Cowboys have played the 49ers in the playoffs. This game will be their ninth meeting, tied for most among any Cowboys opponent (with the Rams) in the playoffs.
The Cowboys are 5-3 overall against the 49ers in the playoffs. They are also an optimistic 3-2 versus the 49ers on the road in the playoffs. Their last win there was on Jan. 23, 1994, an NFC Championship game.
The Cowboys all-time playoff record is 36-29. New England has 37 wins in the playoffs for the most by any one franchise, so the Cowboys could tie them for first with a win on Sunday, Overall the Cowboys are 15-12 in Divisional playoff games. They have played 11 Divisional games on the road and have a fairly reasonable 4-6 record in those games.
If you’re looking for other encouraging facts about the game, the Cowboys are 4-0 this season on a short week. Given that his is a Sunday game following a Monday night game, it qualifies.
Probably nothing provides more optimism for Cowboys fans in this game than the game Dak Prescott put together last week in Tampa Bay. He became the only player to ever have a rushing and throwing touchdown in four straight post-season games. That’s pretty amazing. Prescott’s running has people pretty excited as the fanbase has been wanting more of it. His 24 yards on Monday gave him 96 in his playoff career, good for second among Cowboys quarterbacks. The leader? Roger Staubach with an incredible 432 yards rushing in the playoffs.
If you want to feel a little older and wonder at how time flies, Prescott is now the oldest remaining quarterback in the playoffs at 29 years old. Prescott is now a grizzled veteran.
Tony Pollard had 18 touches in the Bucs game while Ezekiel Elliott had 14. And Pollard was easily the more productive of the two backs. Pollard had three runs of more than 10 yards in the game, tied for the most among running backs in the Wild Card round. One of the guys he was tied with? The 49ers Christian McCaffrey.
Pollard was also third among running backs in the Wild Card round for yards after contact with a 3.4 yard average. The leader? The 49ers Christian McCaffrey at an astounding 5.93 yard average. In two career games versus the 49ers, Pollard has 83 yards rushing on 16 carries. That averages out to 5.2 yards per attempt. He also has eight catches for 75 yards.
On defense, Micah Parsons was once again a game-wrecker versus the Bucs. After a somewhat slow last month of the season, Parsons looked rejuvenated for the post-season. In addition to a sack, he led the playoffs in pressure with eight against the Bucs.
His teammate on that side of the ball, Leighton Vander Esch, also had quite the game against the Bucs. He led the team with nine tackles and also had two passes defensed. Last year in the playoff game versus the 49ers he had 13 tackles in the losing effort. The Cowboys will be counting on LVE with Christian McCaffrey, among others, running loose on the other side of the ball.
Both of these teams score points. The Cowboys were fourth in the league at 27.5 points per game and the 49ers were sixth with 26.5 per game. The 49ers defense was first in points allowed with 16.3 per game while the Cowboys were fifth with 20.1 per game. The Cowboys were second in turnover margin at +10 while the 49ers were first at +13.
There are a lot of similarities between these two teams in terms of their rank around the NFL. The game will probably come down to a couple of things. Can the Cowboys defense force the inexperienced Brock Purdy into mistakes while the experienced Dak Prescott avoids them and solves the 49ers defensive puzzle? The other will be the Cowboys ability to tackle on defense. The 49ers are very physical, and very good at running the ball and getting yards after contact. The Cowboys defense will need to be sure tacklers in this game.