No. 4: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
With running back Ezekiel Elliott set to be suspended for six games this season, the Dallas Cowboys will be without the offensive star in Week 7 when they visit the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Elliott is eligible to play in Week 1, and the suspension will last through this game in Santa Clara.
Dallas’ ground game won’t be anywhere near as potent, which comes across as a good thing for a still-questionable Niners run defense (prove it to me in the regular season, please). But that also opens up the door for the Cowboys second-year quarterback, Dak Prescott, to have a big game.
Like many, I think Prescott regresses a bit in year two. The Cowboys offensive line is slightly downgraded after losing linemen Doug Free (retirement) and Ronald Leary (free agency).
Not having Elliott in the mix could hurt as well.
Two things could happen here. Either Prescott goes through some serious regression. Or, like most good-quality quarterbacks, Prescott makes the necessary adjustments to effectively run an offense without its star player.
If it’s the latter, this matchup becomes oh-so tough for San Francisco.
Why It’s Difficult for the 49ers
Prescott was 23-of-32 for 245 yards and two touchdowns — posting a passer rating of 114.7 — in his one, and only, appearance against the 49ers thus far.
The lack of a top-tier tailback could easily influence Prescott to use his own legs as a part of the game plan. It’s going to be interesting to see how San Francisco’s new-look defense handles this, but I suspect this is going to open up a lot of passing lanes in the intermediate and deep areas.
Prescott thrived in this area last year, and the Niners secondary is going to be left in a lot of one-on-one situations with front-seven members providing the contain up front.
That doesn’t bode well for San Francisco.