49ers vs. Cowboys: Who experts picked in playoff rivalry showdown


The 49ers are just one day away from hosting the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in what could be their biggest game at Levi's Stadium yet. 

The winner will advance to the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 29 -- and will be one step closer to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz. 

With a classic rivalry in the books, these two teams will turn the page and write their own stories Sunday. 

Can rookie quarterback Brock Purdy lead the 49ers to the NFC Championship for the second consecutive year? Or will Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys to the NFC Championship for the time in 27 years?

Here's what folks on the interweb are saying.

Sports Illustrated

Albert Breer, senior NFL reporter
Pick: 49ers

Mitch Goldich, editor
Pick: 49ers

Gary Gramling, senior editor
Pick: Cowboys

Conor Orr, senior writer
Pick: 49ers

John Pluym, managing editor
Pick: 49ers

The Athletic 

These responses are from two executives and three assistant coaches who were unnamed. 

“The Cowboys have the ability to generate the type of pressure that can make Purdy look like a rookie and make mistakes,” the executive said. “It’s going to come down to whether Brock takes care of the football.”

“Dallas will make life difficult, but there are too many weapons for San Francisco offense,” the other executive said.


“Cowboys in a huge upset,” a coach said. “The Cowboys defense will stop the run and confuse the rookie QB.”

“The Cowboys are explosive,” said a coach who picked the 49ers. “I think Kyle will know how to attack Dan’s defense and create plays.”

Expert picks: 49ers 3, Cowboys 2


"What to watch for: Niners quarterback Brock Purdy has passed every test placed before him to this point, but the Cowboys' defense represents the biggest challenge Purdy and the 49ers' offense have faced. The Cowboys led the NFL in pressure percentage (39%) and finished second in sacks per dropback (8.6%) during the season. Purdy has handled pressure well in a smaller sample, with four touchdown passes and no interceptions when under duress since becoming the starter in Week 14. How he handles what Dallas throws at him will go a long way in determining a winner in this classic playoff rivalry." -- Nick Wagoner

"Bold prediction: Brett Maher will make a 47-yard field goal to win the game against the 49ers to send the Cowboys to their first NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season. After missing four point-after attempts in the wild-card win against the Buccaneers, all eyes will be on Maher. And he will show the form of the kicker who set the Cowboys' record for points in a season and missed just three field goal attempts and three PATs during the regular season. Now that is bold." -- Todd Archer 

Eric Moody's pick: 49ers 34, Cowboys 27
Seth Walder's pick: 49ers 30, Cowboys 28
FPI prediction: DAL, 53.2% (by an average of 0.9 points)

CBS Sports 

"The crazy thing about this game is that there's definitely a chance that it could turn into an offensive shootout. Since Week 7, these have been the TWO HIGHEST SCORING teams in the NFL and that mainly has to do with the fact that both teams had something big happen that week: The 49ers traded for Christian McCaffrey while Dak Prescott returned from his injury. 

"Although this game could turn into a shootout, it also could turn into a defensive struggle and that's because both of these teams rank in the top five for fewest points allowed during the 2022 season. 

"The most fascinating coaching matchup in this game definitely involves Kyle Shanahan's offense going up against Dan Quinn's defense. I swear, any time those two guys are on the same field together, something crazy happens. I'm sure everyone remembers the Falcons' epic collapse in Super Bowl LI. In that game, the Falcons head coach was Quinn while the offensive coordinator was Shanahan, so I guess we're going to finally find out who we should blame for Atlanta's collapse. 

"The 49ers have been one of the best teams in the NFL this year, but I'm still not sure how they're going to look against a good team. The 49ers had the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL this year and half their wins came in a bad division (Including the playoffs, they went 7-0 against NFC West teams and 7-4 against everyone else). Also, since Brock Purdy took over the starting job, the 49ers haven't really been tested because they haven't really faced any good teams. Purdy has looked great, but he faced five teams in the regular season that finished with a combined record of 35-49-1." 


Pete Prisco
Pick: Cowboys

Jason La Canfora 
Pick: 49ers

Will Brinson
Pick: 49ers

Jared Dubin
Pick: 49ers

Ryan Wilson
Pick: Cowboys

John Breech
Pick: Cowboys

Dave Richard 
Pick: Cowboys

Jamey Eisenberg 
Pick: 49ers 

Game prediction: Cowboys 27, 49ers 26 

USA Today 

"The Niners look like one of the most well-rounded, balanced teams in the playoff field. Kyle Shanahan devised a scheme that has allowed Purdy to shine. And while the Cowboys shook out of a recent slump in the wild-card round, the 49ers’ defense is elite at every level and should give the Cowboys fits."

Lorenzo Reyes: 49ers 31, Cowboys 23

Sporting News 

"The 49ers and Cowboys were the only teams to enjoy blowout victories in the wild-card round, with San Francisco delivering at home and Dallas doing it on the road. Brock Purdy and Dak Prescott are the hottest QBs going into the divisional round. Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons also were respective leaders of nasty defensive performances.

"The 49ers are riding an 11-game winning streak and have the greater depth and diversity of offensive weapons around Purdy. They also have a key home-field and rest advantage. Christian McCaffrey and the running game give San Francisco the edge, to the point of taking comfortable control in the fourth quarter."

Pick: 49ers win 31-24 and cover the spread.

RELATED: Kittle unbothered by Shanahan's response to his positivity


Pro Football Talk 

"Michael David Smith’s take: After watching the Cowboys dominate the Buccaneers on Monday night, I’m tempted to pick an upset here. But I do think Brock Purdy will do just enough to keep the 49ers’ offense moving, and the 49ers’ defense will force Dak Prescott into a couple of turnovers to win a low-scoring game."

MDS’s pick: 49ers 17, Cowboys 16

"Mike Florio’s take: The 49ers have a collection of badasses who can roll out of bed and run through a brick wall. And even though coach Kyle Shanahan has downplayed it, he knows having two extra days makes a world of difference, especially with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn interviewing for the Broncos job when he otherwise should be preparing to crack Shanahan’s code, and to not have his own code cracked."

Florio’s pick: 49ers 24, Cowboys 17 

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