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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Expert predictions for NFC Wild Card game – The Athletic

The Cowboys went 12-5 in the regular season to win the NFC East for the first time since 2018. Dak Prescott returned from a gruesome ankle injury to be the catalyst in the league’s No. 1 scoring offense, throwing for 4,449 yards and 37 touchdowns while likely securing the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award. Prescott is playing some of his best football lately, with 13 TDs against zero interceptions over the last month. But what gives Dallas an even better chance to make noise this postseason is its defense. Dan Quinn re-molded one of the league’s worst units into a top-10 defense. The Cowboys do give up a lot of yards and have been caught in a few higher-scoring games, but the defense is among the best at forcing turnovers — and those go a long way in the playoffs.

The last time we saw the 49ers in the playoffs, they had the Chiefs on the ropes in Super Bowl LIV. Of course, the tide turned against San Francisco in that game and plenty has changed within the organization since. But these Niners were 3-5 and have dealt with a number of injuries all year as they clawed their way into a playoff spot. This is a top-10 defense against the pass and run, which could present a good matchup against a potent Dallas offense. The 49ers’ chances to advance rest with Jimmy Garoppolo and his ability to keep the turnovers low. Garoppolo’s been an effective passer most of the year, but he has three games with two interceptions in his last six (including Week 18’s win over the Rams). That won’t work against a Dallas defense that thrives on turnovers and momentum-shifting plays.

Odds, Over/Under, Moneyline

Team Spread Total Moneyline

+135

-3

50.5

-160

All odds from BetMGM. Odds updated at 11 a.m. ET Friday. Click here for live odds.

Cowboys vs. 49ers storylines

Dallas Cowboys news

San Francisco 49ers news

Expert picks

Writer Straight Up Pick

Chris Burke

Nick Kosmider

Tashan Reed

Ben Standig

Michael-Shawn Dugar

Katherine Terrell

Mark Kaboly

Jay Morrison

I have two points of reference for how I feel about this game:
1. In the graphic novel, Watchmen, Ozymandius employs tachyons to block Dr. Manhattan’s ability to see through time.
2. In the Star Wars trilogy, Yoda’s unable to tell Senator Palpatine is a Sith Lord because of the dark side masking his true identity.
I cannot figure out this Dallas/49ers game. I look at it and I see fuzziness. Dallas has a high-powered offense, but the 49ers have answers (mainly in Deebo Samuel). The 49ers can control the clock and keep Dallas off the field. Dan Quinn and the Cowboys (and Trevon Diggs, specifically) can capitalize on mistakes — and Jimmy Garoppolo tends to make mistakes, with three multiple INT games in his last six. For every punch, there’s a counterpunch. My gut says Dallas shows up in a big game and the 49ers are undone by turnovers. If I’m going to bet on this game, in fact, it’ll probably be Dallas with a line tease up to as high as 14. But then I go back to the idea that Dallas beat up on such garbage teams in their division and the 49ers are like that ACC team in March Madness who just got in but they make a run because they played a tougher schedule. Dallas by 14, I’m sticking to it, but my brain will be creating infinite alternate timelines until kickoff. — Nando Di Fino, managing editor, betting

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(Photo of Dak Prescott: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images; The Athletic may receive an affiliate commission if you open an account with BetMGM through links contained in the above article.)

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