There was a time when the 49ers and Cowboys rivalry week was bigger than the NFL itself. Records and stats were thrown out the window and it was all about a W and an L. Both teams would fight for that W and carry it until the next time they met up. This rivalry was like the old Lakers and Celtics rivalry or the UCLA and USC rivalry. Insults would fly. The terms 'Cryboys' and 'Whiners' were commonplace. Each team would bring their best because if there was only one game that mattered in a season, it was this one.

How the mighty have fallen. Only 3 seasons after their last confrontation when their teams' names still struck fear in opponents, both teams have fallen off their thrones that towered over their respective divisions. For the 49ers, it was 1999 when two decades of dominance spiraled down into an abyss that resulted in the team's first losing season during that stretch when their leader went down in the evening Arizona heat as Steve Young was knocked into retirement. The result? Reality struck. A team of over aged veterans struggled with a league that was thriving on speed and youth. The 49ers realized that they were old, slow and no match for anyone as a group of kids came out of nowhere and ran over the division the 49ers once took for granted. The St. Louis Rams made a statement that they were a dynasty in the making and that they would fight to keep the 49ers down after losing 17 straight to their division rival. The 49ers looked dazed and confused through much of the season proving one thing...after two decades of reloading, it was finally time to rebuild.

The offseason was an interesting one. Struggling with salary cap space that left enough cash to maybe buy some sourdough bread on Pier 39, the 49ers quickly went from one of the oldest rosters in the league to one of the youngest. That was certainly apparent on defense, which now contains mostly rookies and second year players. The defense must grow up fast. This coming week will be a good test for the team. The Dallas Cowboys. Once a powerful rival, but now they appear to be in the a very familiar spot to 49ers fans. Something that killed us to watch last year.

The Dallas Cowboys seem to be about one year right behind the 49ers. They are now realizing what the 49ers realized last year. With the mysterious and confusing thing called the salary cap, you can no longer afford to reload. You must eventually rebuild. The Cowboys are as the 49ers were…old, slow, and no match for the rest of the league. Like the 49ers, teams no longer fear you. Some no longer respect you. It's a bitter feeling for Cowboys fans as they watch and see the brilliant career of one of the league's all time best quarterbacks slowly come to an end. Troy Aikman should look at what occurred with future Hall of Famers Steve Young and Dan Marino. Is it worth it? How much is your health worth? Should you make way for a new group of youngsters just waiting to take your place? The Cowboys will need an infusion of youth to take the place of their veterans in the near future.

The once dominating team out of Texas has not won a playoff game since 1996. Their spiral may have happened at a slower rate. The result will be the same though. They will have to evaluate their roster and cut the fat.

The Rivalry

The two teams will meet this Sunday in Irving Texas. Is it any less meaningful than previous years? Maybe. Maybe not. Why don't you ask former Cowboy Ken Norton Jr? How about Jerry Rice? Or maybe Emmitt Smith? No wait, how about Troy Aikman? Maybe you should ask that fan sitting in row 10 in the Endzone. You better believe this game still has meaning. Not meaning as in standings, or division dominance. But meaning as in pride and self worth. "I hate this team. I want to beat them bad" is what you may hear if you ask a lot of the players on each roster. You may get the same answer from the guy sitting next to you as you watch it at your local bar.

The War

After a short quarterback controversy and a strong showing against the defending world champion Rams where he completed 21 of 34 passes for 290 yards and 3 touchdowns, Jeff Garcia will start once again. His target is a defense that is ranked 10th in he league in passing defense allowing only 190 yards in the air per game. Lucky for him, he has targets like Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, JJ Stokes, Tai Streets, and Charlie Garner, which form the league's number 3 ranked passing offense (278 yard average). Speaking of Garner, he should have an ok game seeing as how he faces the league's 30th ranked rushing defense allowing 170 yards per game on the ground.

On the Cowboys side of the ball, the best gift they could give the 49ers is starting Troy Aikman. No disrespect but Randall Cunningham is so much better at this point. He has gone 47 of 83 for 563 yards with 6 touchdowns and 2 picks. Aikman has not yet completed a pass (although that drought will likely end this week against the 49ers' defense) this season. He was 0 of 5 in an Eagles 41-14 rout during week 1. Aikman and his 24th ranked offense (173 yards per game) will face the league's 31st ranked 49ers defense (allowing 335 yards per game), which will make this the perfect stage for a rebound. Emmitt Smith will lead the league's 13th ranked rushing defense (103 yards per game) against the league's 21st ranked rushing defense (49ers opponents have been averaging 111 yards per game). Interesting matchup right? You better believe it. Expect high scoring and plenty of running and passing.

For the 49ers, there is a good possibility that by Sunday afternoon, both teams will be 1-3. But don't tell that to returning quarterback Aikman as he will have the entire home crowd behind him and hope to push the 49ers to their first 0-4 start since 1979.

PASS OFFENSE
49ers Passing Offense: 278yards/game #3
Cowboys Passing Offense: 173yards/game #24
RUSH OFFENSE
49ers Rushing Offense: 99yards/game #15
Cowboys Rushing Offense: 103yards/game #13

PASS DEFENSE
49ers Passing Defense: 335yards/game #31
Cowboys Passing Defense: 190yards/game #10
RUSH DEFENSE
49ers Rushing Defense: 111yards/game #21
Cowboys Rushing Defense: 170yards/game #30

TOTAL OFFENSE
49ers Total Offense: 377yards/game #6
Cowboys Total Offense: 276yards/game #21
TOTAL DEFENSE
49ers Total Defense: 446yards/game #31
Cowboys Total Defense: 360yards/game #26