Advantage No. 3: Cowboys can’t defend WR2s
Stats and rankings are always a bit misleading, and there’s a clear-cut example why that applies here.
On the surface, Dallas owns the NFL’s fifth-best scoring defense, and its pass defense finished the regular season ranked eighth best in yards allowed (3,415). Tack on All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs, who had a slightly down year in 2022 but still made the Pro Bowl regardless, it’s not hard to see why the Cowboys are pretty good, defensively.
Especially with Defensive Player of the Year candidate, linebacker Micah Parsons, in the fray as well.
However, as noted by Niners Nation’s Akash Anavarathan below, the pass defense drops off significantly after defending the first wide receiver on the depth chart:
From a statistical perspective, Brandon Aiyuk had been San Francisco’s top wide receiver during the regular season, even though Deebo Samuel was the bigger threat by far.
Either way, the Cowboys are going to have issues defending both players, and anyone who watched Aiyuk torch Diggs last year in the postseason can recall how this man-coverage matchup favors the 49ers offense.
Not Dallas’ defense.
The Niners and Cowboys kick off on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 6:30 p.m. ET from Levi’s Stadium.