What a year it's already been for Dallas Cowboys fans. Johnny Football (rumors) and Zack Martin (3rd consecutive first-round OL pick) during the draft, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher leaving, injuries to stars (Sean Lee) and newcomers alike (DeMarcus Lawrence), Tony Romo's back, signing an oft-retired player (Rolando McClain), suspension for a PED Mickey (Orlando Scandrick) and one for failed tests (Jakar Hamilton); what a year it's already been.
And it's all leading up to tomorrow afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Week one of the 2014 regular season.
We've been asking questions and considering answers for months and now it's time to get the only real answers that matter in the NFL; win and losses. So with that in mind, let's get on to three staff predictions for this week one match-up.
I think everyone knows that this week is all about what the defense can do. I see no reason why the offense can't put up 28+ points, with a number of threats in the skill positions, but can the Cowboys control the clock and keep the defense off the field? Are they willing to? If SF has to play from behind with a draining clock then DAL will have a chance to force mistakes on defense.
I don't believe the Cowboys need to pressure Kaepernick as much as they will other QBs this year, but can they contain him in the pocket? Where I worry most is against the run, between the tackles. Gore and Hyde are a tandem of power runners that the middle of the Cowboys defense must hold strong.
- Can McClain show his 1st round ability?
- Is Melton healthy enough to return to form without game day practice?
- Can Nick Hayden play better than in 2013?
I'm not sure they can. 34 SF – DAL 28
At the risk of being labeled a homer, I'm going to bet my credibility on the Cowboys this week. I have no delusions about this Cowboys defense; the 49ers will move the ball from one 20 to the other 20 with little to no resistance on most of their possessions. In the red zone, however, I am counting on these Cowboys to tighten up.
Granted, the preseason gave us little demonstration to back this belief up, but I'll remind those with mouths agape presently staring at what is likely to be labeled as yet another fantasy piece from yours truly that we have not seen this starting unit at full strength at any point yet.
Sure, they will still be missing a few players when they line up opposite the 49ers, but given the amount of disrespect this unit has suffered throughout the off-season, I am counting on more than a few players to perform at a level beyond their normal output.
Adding to that, I do not respect Kaepernick the quarterback; Kaepernick the football player, is a different story. But if the Cowboys can simply maintain gap responsibility and force Kaepernick to play from the pocket, the turnover opportunities will be there.
As for the offense, the Cowboys will face a defense that will feature only 4 of their 11 starters from last year. Let that sink in. The offense may not have blown up on anyone during preseason, but given how safe Garrett was playing it with everyone from Romo down to Dunbar (of all people), I think the world is in for a huge surprise at how fast the Cowboys are going to come out against the talent-depleted 49ers defense.
49ers 20 – Cowboys 31
Most “experts” have this game as a runaway win for San Fran, I do not.
The Niners are dealing with problems on and off the field. Their defense will be missing two key players in NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. The niners also struggled in the preseason. Their 1st string offense never scored a touchdown and their defense struggled as well. The niners offense isn't one of these units that can turn it on whenever they want, so it will be interesting to see if they will be able to find a groove against the Cowboys defense.
The Cowboys offense has shown it can be very explosive, the defense has shown it can let explosive stuff happen. However, I've seen a 1st string defense get better each preseason game they played. Yes mistakes were still made, but the team was playing without some starters.
I can see Dallas playing 8 in the box a lot and using a spy in passing downs to keep Colin Kaepernick in the pocket, where he struggles the most. The niners will still make some big offensive plays on the ground but look for the Cowboys to match that with their big pass plays against a struggling niner secondary.
With saying all that, my game prediction is SF 24 – Cowboys 27
What a tough game for week 1. The good news – San Francisco has some key starters missing. The bad news – the Cowboys defense has still not shown if it can hang in there.
I think the game starts a bit slow as both team's haven't had much continuity in the preseason and after halftime things open up. Dez Bryant should have a good game but I'm looking to see what takes place in the running game; specifically if Murray can go over 100 yards.
My prediction for the game is SF 24 – DAL 30. Go Cowboys!!!
Editor's Note: Chris' prediction was added in as an edit. Overall, Blue Star Times has Dallas winning by three.