49ers vs Cowboys Wild Card Picks and Predictions: San Francisco Defense Derails Dallas

The Cowboys are slight home favorites over the 49ers on Sunday, but Dallas is a tad overvalued after finishing the season on a soft schedule. We expect the 49ers to be physical while riding their elite defense to at least cover in our NFL betting picks.

Last Updated: Jan 16, 2022 12:48 PM ET Read Time: 5 min

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers rekindle their NFC rivalry in the Wild Card Round in Arlington, Texas on Sunday afternoon.

The Niners snuck into the postseason with a thrilling come-from-behind win over the L.A. Rams in Week 18 and enter the NFL Playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won seven of their last nine contests. Despite that momentum, San Francisco is a field goal underdog to Dallas, which earned the No. 4 seed in the conference thanks to a soft home stretch.

Here are our free NFL picks and predictions for 49ers at Cowboys on January 16.

49ers vs Cowboys odds

Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.

Dallas opened between -3 and -4.5 on Sunday night but as of Monday, the market has settled around Cowboys -3/-3.5. However, those half-point hooks dried up and most books are dealing Dallas as a soft -3 with early play on the underdog 49ers. The total opened as big as 51 points, slimmed to 49.5 but has since risen to 50.5 points.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full NFL odds before placing your bets.

49ers vs Cowboys predictions

Predictions made on 1/11/2022 at 10:15 a.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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49ers vs Cowboys game info

Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Date: Sunday, January 16, 2022
Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS

49ers at Cowboys betting preview

Weather

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Key injuries

49ers: Marcell Harris LB (Out).
Cowboys: Keanu Neal LB (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Under is 8-3 in the Cowboys’ last 11 games overall. Find more NFL betting trends for 49ers vs. Cowboys.

49ers vs Cowboys picks and predictions

Our predictions are compiled from the analysis of the spread and total and are indications of where we are leaning for this game.
Our best bet is the play that we like the most for this game, which we would actually put some of our bankroll behind.

It’s been a while since the Cowboys posted a quality victory. Dallas chowed down on a cupcake-laden finish to the regular season, with wins over Washington (twice), the Giants, Eagles, and Saints (with injured Taysom Hill at QB) since a mess of a game on Thanksgiving (36-33 OT loss to Las Vegas). 

The telling tilt in that stretch was a 25-22 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17, in which the Cowboys struggled to move the chains (3 for 11 on third down), mustered just over 300 yards of offense, and held on to the ball for a mere 25:18. 

This matchup with San Francisco will undoubtedly be the toughest defense Dallas has seen since at least Week 13’s win over New Orleans. The Niners stop unit turned up the intensity in the second half of the slate, ranking No. 7 in EPA allowed per play since Week 10 (-0.059) while checking six of their final nine foes to 20 points or less in regulation. 

Dallas’ attack has definitely favored home field this season, posting 5.1 yards per point inside AT&T Stadium (fourth highest) – compared to just 1.7 on the road. But with the way San Francisco runs the ball and takes its time (29.52 seconds per play – fourth slowest), the Cowboys’ star-studded offense won’t see nearly the amount of touches it would like.

The Cowboys rank out No. 16 in Run Defense DVOA at Football Outsiders and budge for 4.5 yards allowed per carry. Opposing ground games have posted rushing totals of 190, 126, 143, and 127 yards in Dallas’ past four losses. San Francisco averages more than 127 yards on the ground per game, increasing that average to 131 over the last three games.

While we missed out on the few Niners +3.5 spreads that were out there, we’re grabbing +3 (-110) as many shops are dealing the field goal underdog as high as -115 as of Tuesday morning, indicating a potential move to +2.5.

Prediction: 49ers +3 (-110)

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was fantastic in the second half of Sunday’s comeback victory, especially on that final drive of the fourth quarter to force the extra period. However, the 49ers don’t want to pass 33 times – especially against a ball-hawking Dallas secondary that creates plenty of chaos. 

The Cowboys finished the season tops in takeaways with 34, including 26 interceptions. That could keep Garoppolo on a short leash Sunday as the Niners passer has struggled with INTs this season, throwing two in the win over L.A. to put him at 20 on the year. Dallas’ defense has boosted its profile all season with those takeaways but struggles when failing to create game-changing plays.

With that in mind, expect the San Francisco offense to stick to the classics and keep everything simple and between the hash marks. The Niners passing game relies heavily on short strikes and yards after the catch and Dallas has allowed the fourth-most YAC in the league (2,262 YAC). 

As for the Cowboys offense, it faces a Niners defense among the very best in stuffing the run (No. 2 in DVOA) and a San Fran pass rush that has gone berserk the past month. The 49ers have collected 20 total sacks over their last five contests, including five against the Rams last weekend. 

The Cowboys offensive line is still among the best in the business, sitting ninth in adjusted sack rate heading into the postseason and allowed 33 total sacks in 17 games. But that pressure will force Dak Prescott to get rid of the ball quicker and won’t allow bigger plays to develop. 

This total opened as high as 51 points and briefly sunk below 50 before bubbling back up to 50.5. We’ll gladly take the Under on what will be a very physical Wild Card contest Sunday afternoon.

Prediction: Under 50.5 (-110)

The Cowboys' recent production is skewing this total, after pouring on 56 points against the Eagles last week and hanging 51 on Washington in Week 16. Dallas was able to dominate a COVID-decimated Philadelphia team playing a pointless game and rolled over a road-weary WFT playing its second away game in five days.

Looking beyond those blowouts, Dallas scraped together 22 points against Arizona, managed just 21 against the lowly Giants, had 21 points on offense against the WFT in Week 14, and just 20 at NOLA in Week 15. The Cowboys were 6 for 15 in the red zone in those games, leaving plenty of points on the table.

Dallas’ team total for Sunday is set as high as 27.5 points. Taking away those skewed squashes of Washington and Philadelphia, the Cowboys haven’t topped that output since scoring 33 points against the Raiders on Thanksgiving. San Francisco has given up more than 27 points just once in its last nine outings.

Pick: Dallas team total Under 27.5 (-124)

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