The rivalry has been revived. The Dallas Cowboys have had a few different rivals during their time in the NFL. Once upon a time Dallas versus Washington was the rivalry. Lately in the NFC East, the Cowboys versus the Eagles is a hot one. The Cowboys have had a rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers around Super Bowls. Cowboys versus Packers has had its own moments. But there is another NFC opponent with whom the Cowboys have had a long rivalry that spans decades. That’s the San Francisco 49ers.
With the Cowboys and the 49ers both currently among the better NFC teams, and with the two playoff matches the last two years, Dallas versus San Francisco has been reborn. The Cowboys owned the beginning of the rivalry in the early 1970s with two NFC Championship game wins over the Niners, plus another playoff win. San Francisco dominated the 80s and their 1982 NFC Championship game with Dallas created one of the most memorable plays in NFL history with “The Catch”.
Dallas came roaring back in the 90s, getting the better of the 49ers twice in NFC Championship games, while the Niners bested Dallas once.
That is a really strong history that is coming back to life, and Sunday night is another chapter. Appropriately the Cowboys and 49ers are 19-19-1 against each other including nine playoff games. The Cowboys won the last regular-season game in 2020 and have won three straight regular-season contests, but, of course, the 49ers have won the last two playoff games in the past two years.
In this meeting of the two teams, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Cowboys as 3.5-point underdog to the 49ers.
The Cowboys are tops in the league for points allowed on defense at 10.3 points per game. Only one team, the Cardinals, have put up over 10 points against this defense. This is the third time in franchise history that the Cowboys have held three of their first four opponents to 10 points or under, along with the 1970 and 1975 Cowboys teams. The 49ers have scored 30 or more points in each of their games this season, so this will be a real test for the Dallas defense.
On offense, the Cowboys redzone issues have dominated the discussion. The Cowboys are moving the ball seemingly at will until they hit the redzone, and that is proven true by their ability to convert third downs. The Dallas offense leads the league with a 51.6% third-down conversion rate. That is a phenomenal number, now if they could just at least reach that percentage in the redzone they would be on to something.
Even with the redzone issues, the Cowboys are still second in point differential this season with a +83, just one point behind the Buffalo Bills. While the Cowboys have had trouble scoring touchdowns in the redzone, their defense and Brandon Aubrey have come to the rescue this season.
Speaking of Brandon Aubrey, he became the eighth NFL kicker to start their careers by going 13 for 13 or better on field goals. It would take an unusually busy kicking day, but if Aubrey scored 17 points against the 49ers, he would tie Harrison Butker for the most points scored by a kicker in his first five games.
Some other quick stat hits:
- The Cowboys secondary is second in the league, allowing only a 55.2 passer rating against opposing quarterbacks.
- DaRon Bland’s three interceptions in 2023 is tied for the lead league, and his eight interceptions lead the league since the start of the 2022 season.
- Bland could also tie some Cowboys legends with more interceptions. He would match Mel Renfro for third most interceptions for the franchise in a player’s first two seasons (nine). If he can get another multi-interception game this year, he would match Everson Walls with three multi-interception games in their first two years.
- Jake Ferguson is slowly making his mark with 36 receptions in his first 20 games. That is the second-most by a Cowboys tight end in his first 20 career games, only behind the legend, Jason Witten, who had an amazing 65 catches in his first 20 games.
- If the Cowboys win against the 49ers, Mike McCarthy will pass Bud Grant’s 158 wins and become 19th for all-time wins by an NFL head coach.
- In the NFL, third-and-long is defined as third down with six or more yards to go. The Cowboys have only allowed one third-and-long conversion this year. Just one! That obviously leads the league.
Team comparison stats:
- Dallas is fourth in scoring per game (31 points) and San Francisco is third (31.3)
- The Cowboys are first in scoring defense (10.3 points per game) while the 49ers are tied for third (14.5)
- Dallas is eleventh in total offense (360 yards per game) while San Fran is second (398)
- The Cowboys are second in team defense (259.8 yards per game), the 49ers are fifth (284.3)
- Dallas is first in turnover margin (+9), San Francisco is tied for sixth (+4)