Four Downs: Predictions for Rivalry Game vs. Cowboys

Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics as the San Francisco 49ers return home to host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4.

Let's get to what you should look forward to in this "Four Downs" update, presented by SunPower.

1st Down: What is the best matchup in the game?@Joe_Fann: Pierre Garçon vs. Sean Lee

These two are bound to see plenty of each other on Sunday. San Francisco will work to get Hyde going early and set the tone of the game, just as they did successfully in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. The running back recorded his first 100-yard game last week in Seattle, but much of that production came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. The 49ers hope for similar numbers in Week 4, but with consistent production throughout the game. Dallas' defense has surrendered five yards per carry through three games (29th in the NFL) which bodes well for San Francisco's running game. Lee, the Cowboys top tackler and leader of the defense, will be the key to Dallas' hopes of containing Hyde.

@TaylorPrice: DeForest Buckner vs. Dak Prescott

Rookies will be a big talking point in this game. So why not discuss the matchup of San Francisco's seventh-overall pick against Dallas' fourth-round starting quarterback? Buckner has been impressive in three NFL games. He ranks as Pro Football Focus' No. 8 rookie this season and is their top-ranked defensive lineman. Buckner, however, has yet to register a sack. Buckner could have a greater chance of picking one up this week against a banged-up Dallas offensive line. Left guard La'el Collins is dealing with a toe injury. Left tackle Tyron Smith has not practiced this week due to a back issue. Prescott is a mobile runner, but if Buckner is able to beat his man off the ball, it'll be hard to get away from the grasp of the 6-foot-7 defensive lineman.

2nd Down: Who is a non-starter you look forward to watching?

@Joe_Fann: Rashard Robinson

OK, so Robinson may start with Jimmie Ward unlikely to play, but I'm still eager to watch the long, rangy corner. Jim O'Neil said this week that Robinson is battling with Keith Reaser for the No. 3 cornerback spot on the depth chart. If Ward is unable to go, odds are that both Robinson and Reaser will see plenty of playing time. The fourth-round pick out of LSU has seen snaps in all three games so far but is yet to be tested by an opposing quarterback. I'm hoping Prescott opts to challenge Robinson in Week 4, and gives us our first glimpse of what the rookie corner can do in coverage.

@TaylorPrice: Blake Bell

San Francisco's tight ends figure to be a quiet storyline this week. Garrett Celek has been limited in practice with a hip injury. Garrett Celek has been limited with a back issue. If neither player is 100 percent for Sunday, all eyes will be on Bell. The second-year tight end has one catch this season for 6 yards. He could, however, have a bigger role against Dallas' defense. Blaine Gabbert has trust with his tight ends. Could he look No. 84's way in the passing game? We'll find out.

3rd Down: What is the key stat of the game?

@Joe_Fann: Third down (offensively)

By now, you're probably tired of hearing about San Francisco's struggles on third down in Week 3. Here's the quick recap: The 49ers finished 4-of-15 on third down against Seattle and failed to convert any of their first 10 attempts on the money down. Gabbert and Co. will need to improve in order to keep drives alive against the Cowboys.

@TaylorPrice: Rushing yards

Both teams are similar in that they want to establish the run to open things up for their respective quarterbacks. The 49ers rushed for 150 yards in Week 1 and the passing game was rolling for Gabbert against the Los Angeles Rams. The last two weeks have been a different story. Failing to run the ball early has put San Francisco behind in losses to the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. Hyde didn't say this, but he'll surely want to get the best of his former college teammate, Ezekiel Elliott. The team that rushes for more yards should find themselves victorious in Week 4.

4th Down: What is your bold prediction?

@Joe_Fann: The 49ers get a pick-six

Prescott has yet to turn the ball through three games. I'm betting he's due for at least one on Sunday. As good as he's been, he's still a rookie, and I still believe he has a few rookie mistakes in him. Eric Reid has been all over the field so far this season. So to take this prediction one step farther, I'm picking the 49ers safety to be the man to intercept Prescott and return it for a touchdown.

@TaylorPrice: The 49ers score a touchdown in the third quarter

Normally this wouldn't be a bold prediction. But when you've put up a goose egg coming out of the locker room in three consecutive weeks, this should qualify as a gutsy pick. I think the 49ers will not only score points, they'll get a rushing touchdown from Hyde. My reasoning? Chip Kelly's staff is much more familiar with the Cowboys from their time in the NFC East. The comfort level should allow for better half-time adjustments and points in the third quarter.

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