By Zach Walker
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday – September 7 – 3:25pm
AT&T Stadium – Arlington
Who do the Cowboys have to shut down?
WR Michael Crabtree – Colin Kaepernick really missed Crabtree last season, and with a clean bill of health and a return to the Metroplex for Crabtree, could mean bad news for the Dallas secondary. Kaepernick looks for Crabtree to bail him out of plays, for clutch game-breaking plays, and to establish rhythm.
Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
S Barry Church – Whether it’s Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, or Colin Kaepernick on a run, Barry Church’s head is going to have to be in the game. And by the end of it, his body might need put back together. Frank Gore is a north runner, because he is rarely forced south. Vernon Davis is a quick, silky runner through the middle of the field. And add in an extremely mobile quarterback, in Colin Kaepernick, and Church’s impact is going to need to be felt.
Which group will give the Cowboys fits?
The 49ers’ offensive line – On Sunday, the Cowboys are hoping to roll out two defensive linemen, that didn’t play much, if any, in preseason, and are relying on them to come up big. Not saying they can’t, I’m just not holding my breath. Henry Melton is wanting to put injury issues far behind him, Terrell McClain didn’t play in preseason, and George Selvie has a bummed shoulder. It’s just not the ingredients for a successful outing, at least for this game. Joe Staley is a rock, Mike Iupati is a dozer, and Anthony Davis at right tackle, is no push over and usually does the pushing. Where is the pressure going to come from for Dallas?
Which group will give the 49ers fits?
The Cowboys’ offensive line – Where the 49ers are as an offensive line group, the Cowboys are working to become that sort of unit, one that does all the walking and talking for the team. With the investment of another first rounder to the bunch, an emphasis on the run is expected, but keeping Tony Romo’s uniform 49er free is what has got to happen. Good news, no Aldon Smith. Bad news, he isn’t the pass rush threat. Hell, he isn’t even the only Smith. Justin Smith is big, mean, and savvy, and has been doing it for a long time. Ahmad Brooks is a strong run stuffer and a pass rusher. And when runs get to the second level, Patrick Willis has to be blocked and then some.
What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Yeah, balance would be great, but if the defense has the possibility to give up even more yards per game than they did a season ago, the Cowboys have to take advantage of every misstep by the 49ers. Pretty much most people expect this game to be a shootout. Okay, it’s really about prolonging drives with the running game, so if they feed Murray and that O-line starts to really mesh, and the Cowboys’ defense can breathe between their drives, the Cowboys have a genuine chance to start the season off with a win.
Prediction: San Francisco 28 – Dallas 34 – No one knows what this Cowboys team can do as a fully-stocked team, so it’s a bag of random parts, can the coaching staff and veteran players put something together? But for the opener, I’ll take the Cowboys to win the game with a late touchdown.