49ers vs. Cowboys: Know your enemy Q&A with The Landry Hat

Tight end Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys and Marcell Harris #36 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tight end Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys and Marcell Harris #36 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

123. Cowboys -3. 42. Sunday, Jan. 16. 12-5. 10-7. CBS. 4:30 p.m. ET

The 49ers and Cowboys play each other in the playoffs for the first time since 1995, and Niner Noise met up with The Landry Hat to break it all down.

Remember the good ole days when the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys used to hate each other?

Well, all of us here at FanSided certainly don’t hate each other, and our friendly friends over at the Cowboys’ FanSided site, The Landry Hat, were nice enough to join forces with us for a breakdown of what to expect when the Niners and Cowboys square off against each other for a highly anticipated Wild Card matchup at AT&T Stadium this Sunday.

The first time these two longtime rivals have seen each other in the playoffs since January of 1995.

Dallas, owners of the NFL’s best offense during the regular season, squares off against a streaking San Francisco squad that just pulled off a must-win overtime thriller against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 18.

Momentum perhaps?

At any rate, let’s dive into some of the discussions Niner Noise and The Landry Hat had about the renewal of this storied rivalry.

49ers vs. Cowboys: Niner Noise and The Landry Hat Q&A

The Landry Hat associate editor Lauren Barash squared off with us to break down some of the things 49ers fans can expect from the Cowboys during this game, as well as specifically how Dallas got to this point atop the NFC East this season.

Let’s have a look.

NN: The Cowboys’ defensive turnaround from 2020 to 2021 has been remarkable. Aside from defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s presence, what differences have you seen that have made this side of the ball so formidable? 

"TLA: There is no denying that Dan Quinn has played a huge part in this defensive turnaround. The Cowboys will be sad to see him go if he chooses to take a head coaching job somewhere else next season. However, I believe you can’t have a turnaround without great players.The Cowboys are lucky to have both a strong veteran presence on the defensive line and impressive young guns who are having stellar years. Micah Parsons is a Swiss Army knife. This guy can sack the quarterback and stop touchdowns as a cornerback. He sacrificed his individual stats to be wherever the defense needed him. Trevon Diggs is a complete ballhawk in just his second year. Yes, he gives up coverage yards, but his interceptions have been game-changing for the Cowboys. Plus, you have the presence of key vets like DeMarcus Lawrence, Neville Gallimore, and Randy Gregory.Despite all fighting injuries at some point this season, they have all been lights out. And these big names don’t do it alone. There are a whopping 10 Cowboys with interceptions this year. At the end of the day, it just seems like these guys are having fun, and their momentum continues to build."

NN: There’s no shortage of talent in Dallas’ wide receiver room. But, if the 49ers were to take away one wide receiver in Bill Belichick fashion, who would they want to remove most from the offensive equation?

"TLA: Well, to be honest, they are already facing one less receiver with Michael Gallup out for the season with an ACL tear. He is an acrobatic receiver the Cowboys could really use for big grabs in the end zone.Aside from that, I would say CeeDee Lamb offers the most versatile threat. He can line up in the slot or out wide. He also is always great for yards after the catch. Lamb is averaging 13.9 yards per reception. I expect to see Dak Prescott and Lamb link up several times throughout the game."

NN: Some have argued the Cowboys are a “fake” team because the NFC East is so weak, and their wins this season haven’t always come against top competition. Tell us why this notion is 100-percent inaccurate and wrong. 

"TLA: To be honest, I don’t think you are wrong here.It’s true that the Cowboys had quite an easy schedule this year. However, they aren’t “fake.” You can easily argue that this is the strongest Dallas roster the team has seen in years. There is talent at every position, and in some positions, multiple talented players. So calling them “fake” doesn’t feel fair. If anything, I would call them inexperienced against skilled teams simply because of how their schedule ended up.But I think every man on this roster from first-year players to veterans is hungry to show that the Cowboys deserve to be in the playoffs. They have the talent to get it done, and if they play in a rhythm as they did in the second half of Week 18, the 49ers should be worried.Statistically, the Cowboys have one of the best offenses and the defense leads the league in receptions and turnovers. It gets hard to argue with numbers."

Related Story: 5 reasons Niners should be fearful of Cowboys in Wild Card game

NN: Who are two or three players Niners fans should worry about the most during Wild Card weekend?

"TLA: I will give you one obvious answer and one not-so-obvious answer. The first is Parsons. This guy plays everywhere and is going to give Jimmy Garoppolo a tough time on Sunday. With the right side of the Niners’ offensive line struggling (except against Aaron Donald), expect Parsons to easily get to Garoppolo. This may cause him to throw his usual prayers in the air that get picked off by Parsons’ teammates.The non-obvious answer is Cedrick Wilson. You mentioned it yourself that the Cowboys have wide receiver depth. Many were worried that the Cowboys would be screwed with Gallup going down, but Wilson has stepped up big time. Wilson and Prescott were in sync in Week 18, and Wilson is excited to get more catches in a primetime game. You also have to watch out for Wilson in trick plays since he’s five for five on throws as a quarterback this year."

NN: Who wins this game between San Francisco and Dallas, and why?

"TLA: The golden question. I go back and forth every day!The only reason I doubt the Cowboys is because they haven’t been able to prove themselves against formidable opponents this year, and the 49ers are obviously a great team. However, I think the Cowboys can pull off this win.This roster has star-studded talent and I think Jimmy G giving up turnovers, whether by strip sack or interception, will be how Dallas dominates. If Dallas can find a way to stop Deebo Samuel and the run, they can come out victorious. I do think it will be really close, though."

Currently, the oddsmakers over at WynnBET list Dallas as a three-point favorite, and three points are usually granted to the home team anyway, meaning this would likely be a pick-em game if played at a neutral site.

Although, as Cowboys fans saw firsthand Week 1 back in 2014, Niners fans are more than capable of taking over AT&T Stadium.

Perhaps that plays out again. Perhaps not.

But the real story is the fact both teams have strengths that play against the other team’s weaknesses, such as Dallas’ elite receiving corps against a questionable San Francisco cornerback room. Similarly, the 49ers’ ability to run the ball is an advantage over a Cowboys team that allowed 4.5 yards per rush during the regular season.

It makes for an intriguing Wild Card matchup.

In the meantime, let’s all thank Lauren Barash for spending some time with us, and be sure to check out Niner Noise’s answers to The Landry Hat’s questions right here.

Also, be sure to follow The Landry Hat on Twitter — @LandryHat.

San Francisco and Dallas kick off on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 4:30 p.m. from AT&T Stadium.

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