49ers vs. Cowboys: What Are Experts Saying About San Francisco?

Peter Panacy@@PeterPanacyCorrespondent ISeptember 4, 2014

Head coach Jim Harbaugh preps his team for the 49ers' first matchup of the 2014 season in Dallas.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh preps his team for the 49ers' first matchup of the 2014 season in Dallas.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers look to start the 2014 NFL season off with a bang as they travel to AT&T Stadium to take on the Dallas Cowboys on September 7 for this Week 1 matchup.

San Francisco is a clear favorite here, according to Odds Shark—as further detailed by David Fucillo of Niners Nation—and it isn't too hard to reason why.

Looking at least season alone, the 49ers boasted a 12-4 record and a third-straight appearance in the NFC Championship game. On the flip side, the Cowboys posted a mere 8-8 record in arguably the worst division in football last season, the NFC East.

The Cowboys defense will likely be as problematic in 2014 as it was a year ago.
The Cowboys defense will likely be as problematic in 2014 as it was a year ago.USA TODAY Sports

While the 49ers ranked in the top 10 of almost every defensive category in 2013, the Cowboys were at the bottom. Their questionable defense was No. 30 in passing yards against (4,589) and No. 27 in rushing yards against (2,056). 

But this is a new season. Things will invariably change, which forces us to take further evaluation when predicting this Week 1 outcome.

Let's take a look around the sports world and see what the experts are saying about San Francisco's chances in this one. We'll summarize their picks and go into detail about why they chose one team over the other.

We'll start off our list by taking a look at what the experts over at CBS Sports are saying.

CBS Sports Expert Picks: San Francisco @ Dallas
Straight-Up PickAgainst the Spread
Pete Prisco49ers49ers
Jason La Canfora49ers49ers
Will Brinson49ersCowboys
Josh Katzowitz49ersCowboys
Ryan Wilson49ers49ers
John BreechCowboysCowboys
Dave Richard49ers49ers
Jamey Eisenberg49ersCowboys
Prediction Machine49ersN/A

All of CBS Sports' experts are picking the 49ers to take this Week 1 matchup over the Cowboys with the exception of John Breech.

Breech goes into detail as to why Dallas will be able to upset San Francisco—an interesting assumption given the vast difference in talent on these two franchises:

The Cowboys defense was bad last year and it most likely won't be good this year. But the 49ers defense also has holes to fill with Glenn Dorsey, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman all getting set to miss substantial time this season. If there was something important on the line in this game—like a playoff berth—I'd pick against Tony Romo 107 times out of 107 times, but there's not a playoff berth on the line and the game's in Dallas. Also, Jerry Jones said the Cowboys might be bad this year and he's knows nothing about football, which means they're going to be good.

The loss of Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman are significant without question. This will put plenty of pressure on second-year pro Corey Lemonier and backup linebacker Michael Wilhoite in their respective steads.

Dorsey's absence isn't as significant given that the 49ers have a fully healthy complement of Ian Williams and Quinton Dial at nose tackle. Remember, Williams won the position battle a year ago before missing the rest of 2013 with an injury.

Ian Williams was named the starting defensive tackle over Glenn Dorsey in 2013 before an injury sidelined him for the season.
Ian Williams was named the starting defensive tackle over Glenn Dorsey in 2013 before an injury sidelined him for the season.USA TODAY Sports

If Breech had predicted the 49ers coming out sloppy and coughing up a loss, his argument might be a bit more believable. As it stands, Breech's assessment doesn't make much sense.

It is worth pointing out though that Pete Prisco makes a bold prediction—citing many of the same problems Breech points out—that the 49ers will miss the playoffs entirely and that head coach Jim Harbaugh will bolt for Dallas after the season.

Let's move on to the folks over at ESPN.com.

ESPN Expert Picks: San Francisco @ Dallas
Straight-Up Pick
Eric Allen49ers
Mike Golic49ers
Merril Hoge49ers
Ron Jaworski49ers
Chris Mortensen49ers
Adam Schefter49ers
Tom Jackson49ers
Seth Wickersham49ers
Tom JacksonCowboys
Keyshawn JohnsonCowboys
Mike DitkaCowboys
Cris Carter49ers
Pigskin Pick 'Em49ers

Once again, the 49ers emerge as clear favorites from the large panel of ESPN's analysts. While Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka and Keyshawn Johnson are going with the Cowboys, San Francisco still emerges as the best option.

Shifting our focus once more, let's take a look at the experts at Fox Sports.

Fox Sports Expert Picks: San Francisco @ Dallas
Straight-Up Pick
Ryan Fowler49ers
Joel Beall49ers
John Halpin49ers
Adam Meyer49ers

Fantasy football analyst Adam Meyer goes into a little more detail about the prospects for San Francisco's 2014 season:

Jim Harbaugh has been in San Francisco for three years and has reached the NFC Championship game every time. With a balance of great defense and, at times, a breakout offense, the 49ers can produce solid fantasy football talent across the board. Though the final numbers possess a positive outcome, the streakiness of the players in the 49ers offense can provide owners with a Candlestick Park-sized headache every week, I’m looking at you Colin Kaepernick.

Let's apply this to the case study against Dallas in Week 1. As noted, the 49ers can be relatively streaky on offense—an aspect even the most casual 49ers fan can point out.

Colin Kaepernick will look to get San Francisco's offense on track against a weak Dallas defense.
Colin Kaepernick will look to get San Francisco's offense on track against a weak Dallas defense.Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

But as Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com points out, a weak and vulnerable Cowboys defense is the perfect cure for San Francisco's inconsistent offense.

Lastly, let's poll some of Bleacher Report's own featured columnists and see what they're saying about this Week 1 matchup:

Bleacher Report Expert Picks: San Francisco @ Dallas
Straight-Up Pick
Gary Davenport49ers
Ty Schalter49ers
Steven Cook49ers
Andrew Gould49ers

Featured columnists Andrew Gould, Steven Cook, Ty Schalter and Gary Davenport all select the 49ers as favorites over the Cowboys.

The interesting part of some analysts' projections is that the score is both high and relatively close. 

Cook suggests San Francisco will scrape by 31-30, while Gould predicts a 31-24 victory. This leads us to believe that Dallas' only chance is to take advantage of a depleted 49ers defense without the assistance of Bowman and Smith.

But Davenport points out the weaknesses within the Cowboys' own defense, which will give Colin Kaepernick and Co. a perfect opportunity to get back on track:

However, if ever there was a Week 1 opponent tailor-made to get Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense on track, it's the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas fielded the worst defense in the NFL last year. Now that defense is also without defensive end DeMarcus Ware (released), tackle Jason Hatcher (left in free agency) and linebacker Sean Lee (torn ACL). 

Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, who the Cowboys drafted in the hopes of replacing some of the pass rush lost by the departures of Ware and Hatcher, broke his foot in the preseason. 

It's so bad that not only did the Cowboys trade for linebacker Rolando McClain (who was out of the NFL entirely last year), but McClain will start at middle linebacker for Dallas in Week 1.

This is essentially what the entire argument boils down to. The Cowboys defense has far too many holes to put up a substantial fight against the 49ers offense regardless of San Francisco's first-team offensive woes during the preseason.

Remember, the 49ers love to run the ball, and we can expect them to do so in spite of the upgraded receiving corps formulated during the offseason. Running the ball wears down thin defenses and takes time off the clock.

That is time spent keeping the likes of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray off the field. Potent offenses are often stymied by this approach, and Dallas should be no different.

At any rate, the 49ers do face challenges that go beyond what transpires on the field. They need to garner momentum and rhythm in what promises to be a long and grueling 16-game season.

Fortunately enough, the regular season is upon us, and we can begin to speculate all we want. Here's to a full year of doing just that!


All statistics and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Supplemental, hat-tip information courtesy of NFLPickWatch.com.

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Be sure to check out his entire archive on 49ers news, insight and analysis.

Follow @PeterMcShots on Twitter.