Dallas (-3) @ San Francisco
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For about the first 50 minutes last Sunday night, the Cowboys gave their fans reason to forget about their 2010 season. For about the final 10 minutes last Sunday night, Tony Romo reminded Cowboy fans just why he can be so frustrating. We will see if Romo can redeem himself somewhat this week at Candlestick Park, as they take on the 49ers, fresh off of their own impressive Week 1 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
While this may not be a critical game for the Cowboys in the standings, it may be in terms of this team’s confidence on the field. Tony Romo has to be more than anxious to get back into action and hopefully prove yet again that he can actually finish a game. The Cowboys offense had a very good game last week, and against one of the league’s best defensive units last year. They came out of the gates extremely effective on offense, and Tony Romo in particular looked very sharp. His final line was 23 of 36, for 342 yards and 2 TDS. Unfortunately, he also had a fumble and an interception, both of which played key roles in the Cowboy’s defeat. While the Jet’s have one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Darrelle Revis, the Niners don’t. They ranked 13th overall in team defense last year, 6th against the run but 24th against the pass. They were around the middle of the pack in INT’s as well, finishing 2010 with 15 picks, good enough for a 17th place tie in that category. Dallas may try to establish some sort of running game to help Romo spread the field, but managed only 64 yards last week against the Jets on 26 carries. Even against the New York Jets and the NFL’s 3rd ranked run defense of a year ago, 64 yards won’t get it done most weeks. The Cowboys will look to get Felix Jones on track this week and take some of the pressure off their passing game. Tony Romo may have to play this game without one of his more explosive receivers, with Dez Bryant missing practice this week and being questionable for Sunday’s game with a thigh injury. Bryant had 3 catches for 71 yards and a TD, but was also Romo’s intended target when he was picked by Revis in the fourth quarter Sunday to lead to the Jets game winning field goal.
The 49ers on the other hand will have to get back to work after being able to briefly celebrate a victory in Jim Harbaugh’s regular season coaching debut in San Francisco. Even though the Niners did get the victory, they did so mainly on the back of their special teams. Alex Smith passed for just 124 yards, going 15 for 20 with no TDS. Their rushing attack didn’t fare much better, putting up 85 yards on 32 total carries, which works out to an average of just 2.7 yards gain per carry. Like Jones in Dallas, Frank Gore will look to improve on his performance in Week 1, gaining just 59 yards on 22 touches, although his performance will be critical to San Francisco having any kind of success in this match-up. The Dallas defensive unit finished 2010 with the NFL’s 23rd ranked overall defense, finishing last year 26th against the pass and 12th against the run, allowing an average of 108 yards per game on the ground. The Cowboys could be without two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman again this week, which could mean a few more openings for Alex Smith, if he has time to spot them. Look for the Cowboys to pressure Smith with their pass rush, ultimately trying to force him into turning the ball over.
The Cowboys are 3-1 in their last four meetings with the Niners, winning the last game 35-22 in 2008. San Fran meanwhile has not covered the spread against an NFC East team in their last 6 match-ups, and have gone 1-10-1 ATS since 2001. With Philadelphia being heavily favoured to win the NFC East, and a much improved Redskins team possibly entering the mix this year, I look to Dallas to get back on track and handle the Niners easily in this one. Take the Cowboys and give the 3 points in this one, and look for Tony Romo to have a big game and make amends.
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