The Dallas Cowboys are currently sitting at 2-1 and are headed to San Francisco to take on a struggling 49ers team.
The Cowboys will face a familiar foe in the 49ers new head coach Chip Kelly, who you can bet really wants to beat his former division rival. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has something up his sleeve to try and catch the Cowboys off guard.
I don’t know about you, but I would certainly feel much more comfortable with this matchup if Dez Bryant were in the lineup. Unfortunately, Bryant is not the only Cowboys player that is banged up and could be out Sunday afternoon.
The Cowboys have a long list of injured players on both sides the ball and that could change the entire dynamic of the game plan against the San Francisco 49ers.
There are quite a few players that are going to have to step up their game in order to help compensate for the loss of some of these injuries. That shouldn’t be a new concept to a Cowboys team that has been hit by the injury bug before, unfortunately this seems like a regular occurrence.
Below are some of the key matchups that I think the Dallas Cowboys have to win in order to come away with a victory against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday afternoon at Levi Stadium.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
Ezekiel Elliott vs. Navarro Bowman
Like most games, the Dallas Cowboys want to be dominant in the running game. That’s why they invested so highly in the offensive line and the running back position.
Ezekiel Elliott is coming off his best career game in the NFL and he wants to carry that momentum into the game against the 49ers, especially when his former teammate, Carlos Hyde, is lining up in the backfield for the other team.
I think Elliott can get to the second level in this game on a continuous basis, and that’s why I think he needs to win the battle against Navarro Bowman.
Bowman is one the better linebackers in the NFL and is hoping to help shut down the Cowboys running game, but Elliott is more talented than any RB he’s faced so for this season.
Also, don’t be surprised if we see Lance Dunbar used in the passing game more Sunday afternoon. He could be the surprise X factor in this game.
Battle in the trenches
For the running game to have the kind of success that the Dallas Cowboys want, the offensive line has to win the battle with the 49ers defensive line.
Personally, I think this is the strength of the 49ers defense, led by their young defensive tackles Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.
I don’t expect that to happen, but it’s something to keep an eye out for throughout the game.
Jason Witten vs. Eric Reid
If Dez Bryant is out of the lineup, Jason Witten will more than likely be one of the players that the 49ers defense game plans for more.
I expect the 49ers defense to use safety Eric Reid closer to the line of scrimmage and cover Witten one on one in the passing game.
Reid has the size, speed, and length to do the job, and has done so the last two games against Greg Olson and Jimmy Graham. Witten however has a sneakiness about him that Olson and Graham don’t. It allows him to create space and get open, which is good news for Dak Prescott.
Reid certainly has his work cut out for him, but I expect Jason Witten to get the better of the matchup.
Dallas Cowboys Defense
Orlando Scandrick vs. Jeremy Kerley
Jeremy Kerley joined the 49ers team just a few days before the 2016 season kicked off, but has already established himself as one of the few playmakers they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Kerley lines up in the slot and that means he will face off against Orlando Scandrick the majority of the night. Of course, this all depends on if #32 is healthy or not.
If Scandrick can’t go or suffers a setback in the game, then rookie Anthony Brown will have to take over.
Brown replaced Scandrick last week and did an adequate job. I don’t expect anything to change this week if he has to play, but it is still a matchup worth watching.
Sean Lee vs. Carlos Hyde
Everything I said about the matchup between Ezekiel Elliott and Navarro Bowman earlier can be said here about Sean Lee and Carlos Hyde.
Carlos Hyde is without a doubt the best player that the 49ers have on the offensive side of the ball. He is off to a good start this year and faces a Cowboys defense that has given up some big runs in the past few games.
This might be the most talented running back the Cowboys have faced all season, and I think the best bet for the defense to contain him is by getting a good game from Sean Lee.
Lee was moved to the weak side LB spot so that he had the freedom to use his instincts and playmaking ability to be a difference maker.
I think he absolutely has to have a good game to shut down the 49ers best playmaker.
Cowboys DEs vs. Joe Staley
The Dallas Cowboys would like to get more from their pass rush, but that simply hasn’t happened yet.
However, David Irving and newly signed DE Ryan Davis showed some flashes that things could be improving in that department.
Joe Staley is the 49ers best offensive lineman and the Cowboys DEs can’t allow him to be dominant, especially in the running game.
Staley is a lot like what the Dallas Cowboys have in Tyron Smith. He is a very athletic/balanced player that is just as good in the running game as he is in pass protection.
The Cowboys DEs need to be relentless so hopefully they can wear him down throughout the ball game.
Are there any matchups you will be keeping a close eye on?
Let me hear what you think in the comment section below.