Keys to Victory for San Francisco 49ers (2022 Divisonal Round)

Welcome to another sports blog during this glorious NFL weekend. The games yesterday were not terribly competitive even though Jacksonville kind of made things interesting before they shot themselves in the foot a couple of times in the 4th quarter with two costly turnovers, one in which they were about to score a TD to pull within 3 points of the Chiefs. The Jaguars were gifted with a hobbled Patrick Mahomes in the first quarter but couldn't take advantage of it. As for the later game, don't even get me started on how the Giants laid an egg on prime time TV last night. I knew Philly would win by double digits but the Giants had no fight in them. Even Giants head coach Brian Daboll admitted that his team "crash landed" in Philly last night. I have never heard that expression to describe an ugly loss but I like it!

I expect the games today to be more entertaining. We start with the Bengals-Bills game which features two prolific offenses. I don't plan on breaking that game down (given the title of this article) but I think Buffalo wins by a sizable margin. Joe Burrow is missing 3 starters on the offensive line and Buffalo is at home. And the Bengals defense is OK but nothing great.

So what about the 49ers and Cowboys? This game feels like a Super Bowl matchup. The two best defensive players in the league are arguably Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons. Each should be perennial All-Pro players and could find themselves in Canton, Ohio 15 - 20 years from now should they keep up their exemplary play on the field. Furthermore, both teams have phenomenal depth and play makers at RB and WR. Both have top 5 TEs. Both are well coached. Both are hungry after some heartbreak last year in the post-season. This game could come down to how Dak Prescott and Brock Purdy perform. No doubt there is a lot of pressure on those two signal callers.

I expect this game to be close and having us on the edge of our seats, even if you are not a fan of either team. Still, I firmly believe the 49ers win this game for the 8 reasons listed below.

  1. Home Sweet Home. Including the post-season, the 49ers are 9-1 at Levi's whereas Dallas is 5-4 on the road.

  2. Rest. Dallas last played on Monday and had to fly Florida for that game and now fly in the other direction to California. SF last played on Saturday of the previous weekend so in essence they have had 3 extra days of preparation.

  3. Travel. This will be Dallas's 4th consecutive road game and 5th road game in the last 6 weeks. 49ers haven't had to travel since New Year's Day against the Raiders and that was a short trip to Las Vegas.

  4. Red Zone defense. While Dallas has a very good red zone offense, the 49ers red zone defense at home is superb. SF struggled with red zone defense on the road by allowing a TD on 72.22% of their opponents red zone possessions but at home that number dropped to 45.45%. Remove the KC game and the 49ers red zone defense at home allowed a TD only 33% of the time.

  5. Red zone opportunities. Having a good red zone offense is rendered useless if you can't get there. The 49ers rank first in allowing the least trips to the red zone. Just 2.2 times per game. If Dallas can't get to the red zone, they will need to rely on the kicking game which brings me to my next point.

  6. Poor kicking. Brett Maher missed not just one, two, or three PATs but FOUR! FOUR! That is ridiculous! A high school kicker can do better. Given how good each defense is, points will come at a premium. Not sure if you can trust Maher after his abysmal performance on Monday night.

  7. Turnovers. Dak Prescott has a penchant for forcing throws in tight windows. His increase in interception rate this season says it all. 15 INTs in 12 starts this season whereas he had just 10 INTs in 16 starts last season. Should Dallas find themselves relying the deep play to score, that could spell trouble for the Cowboys. FYI, both SF and Dallas are top two in turnover differential so that is why how well each QB protects the ball is crucial for today's game.

  8. Rushing offense. This will be my last point. Kyle Shanahan loves to run the ball. In fact, the 2016 Atlanta Falcons had one of the best rushing offenses in NFL history when Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. While Dallas boasts a superb pass defense, the rush defense is mediocre at best. Just pick your poison among Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, or Elijah Mitchell. With the extra preparation time, I am sure Shanahan will have a solid game plan dialed up which will feature a dominant ball control offense.

Again this game will be close but the 49ers will prevail. I am predicting SF 24 - Dallas 21. Enjoy the game and GO NINERS!