The first full week of the NFL preseason rolls on Saturday night when the San Francisco 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys on the NFL Network. The 49ers are listed as 4.5-point favorites with an over/under of 36 points.
For the 49ers, there’s almost nowhere to go but up after last year’s 4-12 campaign. For what it’s worth, San Francisco lost Jimmy Garoppolo early in the season in what turned out to be an injury the 49ers couldn’t overcome. They are now ready to hit the reset button and hope that Garoppolo can finally proceed with his first full season as a starter in the NFL.
On the other hand, the Cowboys are looking to build off last season’s success. Dallas won the NFC East at 10-6 in 2018 and even won a playoff game before falling to the NFC Champion Rams. The problem for the Cowboys is that under Jason Garrett, they’ve never reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, so they can’t take anything for granted, even in the preseason.
Who’s Got Your Back
The biggest storyline surrounding the Cowboys during training camp has been running back Ezekiel Elliott holding out. It’s gone on long enough to become a distraction for the team with the regular season fast approaching. Elliott’s holdout could also change the team’s plans for the preseason. Without knowing if Elliott will return before the season, the Cowboys will be looking to give extra work to young running backs like Darius Jackson, Mike Weber, and Tony Pollard. This could force the Cowboys to run the ball a lot, which may not go well once their starting offensive linemen leave the game.
Moreover, Dallas doesn’t have much experience at quarterback behind Dak Prescott. Mike White and Cooper Rush are battling to win the backup job and should both get extensive action. However, given their inexperience, they could struggle to move the offense consistently. The 49ers have some young talent on defense that should see plenty of playing time on Saturday and could give the Dallas offense problems.
While the 49ers will be thrilled to have Garoppolo back from his ACL injury, they won’t be foolish enough to play him in the first preseason game. The good news is that backups Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard both have NFL experience. That makes both set up for preseason success, especially once the Cowboys go deep down the depth chart in the second half of the game.
Of course, Mullens and Beathard will be working with a young group of receivers. The 49ers have several rookie receivers on their roster like Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd who were high draft picks and should receive plenty of reps in the preseason opener. If they play well, the San Francisco offense could run wild, but if not, it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.
The Cowboys have lost their last six preseason openers, which is a long enough streak to mean something. It indicates that Garrett doesn’t put too much stock in the first preseason game. Meanwhile, the 49ers are at home and should be a little motivated to play well. Bet on the 49ers to beat the Cowboys and cover on Saturday night.
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