Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN believes these flaws could hurt 49ers on Sunday vs. Cowboys

Jan 13, 2022 at 8:59 AM--

ESPN writer Bill Barnwell made his playoff predictions all the way to Super Bowl LVI. He has the Kansas City Chiefs topping the Los Angeles Rams 31-24 in the NFL's championship game. The first order of business for the San Francisco 49ers to ensure that isn't the matchup will be to beat the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys in the opening round of postseason play, which begins this weekend.

While many like the 49ers' chances in this matchup, Barnwell isn't sure San Francisco can come out on top. He predicts a 27-14 Dallas win at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.

Barnwell admits that the 49ers have a talented roster capable of upsetting any opponent. However, like many playoff teams this year, it is not without flaws. Barnwell doesn't like this matchup for the 49ers as much as others do. There are two main reasons for that.

"Kyle Shanahan's team struggles to stay afloat when it turns the ball over; the 49ers have gone 2-6 when they turn the ball over two or more times this year and 8-1 otherwise," Barnwell explains. "They're facing a Cowboys defense that has forced two or more takeaways 12 different times this season, a feat last accomplished by the 2019 Steelers and the 2013 Legion of Boom Seahawks."

The second reason is what many perceive to be the defense's biggest vulnerability this season, despite the 49ers being ranked No. 6 against the pass.

Wrote Barnwell: "With the 49ers bereft at cornerback against a team with multiple star receivers, they will need a heroic effort on the ground to stick with Dallas, and while that's possible, I don't trust an injured Garoppolo to protect the football, especially with star left tackle Trent Williams questionable to play."

Williams has stated that he intends to play, even if that means wearing a brace over his elbow. And the 49ers rushing attack ranked No. 7 in the NFL while the Cowboys' run defense ranked No. 16. Elijah Mitchell led San Francisco's rushing attack. This season, the rookie running back had 963 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns through 11 game appearances and 10 starts.

They also have a dynamic wide receiver at their disposal in Deebo Samuel, who ranked second on the team with 365 rushing yards and racked up an impressive eight rushing touchdowns this season, all while leading the 49ers with 1,405 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns.

We'll soon learn if that is enough to knock off the Cowboys on Sunday.

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