NFL Preseason action on Thursday evening and we will see the Dallas Cowboys duke it out with the much-improved San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Cowboys went 3-1 in the preseason last year, while the Niners were 2-2. Both teams will be looking to make a run at the postseason this year.
Dallas Begins Life Without Witten and Bryant
Quarterback Rotation: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White, Dalton Sturm
The Dallas Cowboys went just 9-7 last year and missed out on the postseason. They did miss the postseason and will probably need to change that this year or it could finally cost Jason Garrett his job. Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are both back and running the show on offense, but they will miss WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten in the passing game. That will make Prescott’s job a bit harder, but the ‘Boys did get free agent WR Tavon Austin in the offseason and also drafted WR Michael Gallup with their 2nd pick. They also took TE Dalton Schultz with their 5th pick in the draft. The offense still goes as Elliott goes, but Prescott should have a solid passing year as well. He will not get much or any work in this game and neither will Elliott but their two draftees will get plenty of looks.
The defense will be led by Demarcus Lawrence, who had 14.5 sacks last year, after posting just nine sacks in his first three seasons in the league. They bolstered their defensive line with the addition of free agent Jihad Ward, while also grabbing linebacker Leighton Van Esch with their first pick in the draft. He had 141 tackles, four stacks. 4.5 tackles for loss, and two INTs for Boise State last year. He was selected to replace the departed Anthony Hitchens. They also added Dorance Armstrong with their 4th pick. The defense was 13th in the league in scoring last year and should crack the top 10 this year.
The Niners Have High Hopes This Year
Quarterback Rotation: Jimmy Garoppolo, CJ Beathard, Nick Mullens, Jack Heneghan
The 49ers have really struggled the last few years, but they are on the verge of once again being a strong team in the NFC. It all started with the trade for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last year. He led the Niners to five straight wins to end the year and they averaged 32.5 ppg over their last four after putting up just 16.8 ppg through their first 12 games. He really gives them hope for this year and they gave him some new weapons by drafting wide receivers Dante Pettis and Richie James. They did lose running back Carlos Hyde, but they picked up Jerick McKinnon from Minnesota. He should get plenty of looks as he battles for the top running back job. The offensive line was bolstered with Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), who they took with the ninth overall pick in the draft. This offense will no longer be a laughing stock of the league.
Despite posting a 6-10 record overall, the defense was not horrible as they allowed just 22.6 ppg, which was 19th in the league. The defense will be far better this year, especially with the additions of defensive back Richard Sherman and linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu. Both will be impact players on this defense and the Niners also used six of their nine draft picks on this side of the ball. Defense does win championships and the Niners should have a Top 10 unit this year. They did lose DB Eric Reid, but still, this unit will be good overall, especially if the new blood plays well. The Niners may still be a year away from making the playoffs, but they are certainly pointed in the right direction.
San Francisco is:
- 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall
- 2-8 ATS in their last 10 Thursday games
- The Dog is 0-4-1 ATS the last five in this series