Our staff writers break down the San Francisco 49ers Week 7 matchup, a home game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Let's dive into the keys to the game in this "Four Downs" preview of Sunday's divisional matchup, presented by SunPower.1st Down:What is the game's best storyline?@Joe_Fann: C.J. Beathard's first-career start
Beathard captured our attention in Week 6 when he inherited a 17-0 deficit and helped the 49ers score 17 unanswered points to tie the game. Despite the 26-24 loss to the Washington Redskins, the promise of San Francisco's rookie quarterback has everyone eager for his first-career start on Sunday against Dallas. Beathard threw for 245 yards and one touchdown in just over two quarters of playing time. Now he'll get to lead San Francisco's offense from the jump.
@KeianaMartinTV: Reuben Foster's return
We were teased last week with the possibility of Foster's return against the Redskins. Kyle Shanahan made the call ahead of the Week 6 matchup to sit Foster for another week. It has yet to be announced if Foster will return against the Cowboys, however Shanahan would "be surprised" if the 49ers first-round pick isn't ready to go on Sunday. The rookie impressed in just 11 snaps in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. Foster's Week 7 return makes for an attractive matchup against Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott.2nd Down: Who will score the 49ers first touchdown?
@Joe_Fann: George Kittle
From one Hawkeye to another, it's going to be Beathard finding his college teammate in the end zone on Sunday. The two connected for a 30-yard gain in Week 6. I'd expect Beathard to look Kittle's way early and often against the Cowboys. The tight end is a candidate for double-digit targets, some of which are bound to come inside the 20-yard line.
Hyde is coming off of a multi-touchdown game against the Redskins. The 49ers face Dallas' 22nd-ranked rushing defense. The Cowboys have allowed three 100-yard rushers and four total touchdowns to running backs. With a rookie under center, the 49ers may rely heavily on Hyde and the running game on Sunday.3rd Down: What is the key matchup?
@Joe_Fann: DeForest Buckner vs. Cowboys offensive line
Buckner is going to see a lot of Dallas' guards, Jonathan Cooper and Zach Martin as well as center Travis Frederick. "DeFo" is already one of the top interior defensive lineman in the NFL, but a dominant showing against the Cowboys will help increase his national audience. The 49ers and Cowboys play on Fox's "America's Game of the Week" which should give the matchup plenty of exposure.
Trent Brown and the 49ers offensive line will be tasked with keeping Beathard unscathed on Sunday. Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded 31 total quarterback pressures and leads the league with 8.5 sacks. Lawrence has logged a sack in each of the Cowboys five contests and will be looking to continue that streak on Sunday. So far, Brown is having a breakout season as one of the NFL's top pass protectors. The third-year right tackle has allowed just nine quarterback pressures through six games. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this battle.4th Down: What is your bold prediction?
@Joe_Fann: Fantasy owners will be disappointed they didn't start Beathard
If you are dealing with Matthew Stafford or Deshaun Watson's bye week, or are nervous that Jameis Winston might not be 100 percent, I'd think long and hard about going with the 49ers rookie. I've already detailed his numbers against Washington, and he has the chance to find greater success against Dallas' susceptible secondary. The Cowboys have allowed 11 touchdown passes in five games which is the third-most in the NFL. A 300-yard, multi-touchdown performance with some rushing yards sprinkled in is entirely possible for Beathard.
@KeianaMartinTV:The 49ers WIN
There's a multitude of narratives that could play in the 49ers favor. The Cowboys defense has struggled to slow down opponents, and the group has not recorded a turnover since Week 2. They have also struggled to get off the field on third down where opponents are converting at a 45 percent clip. If the 49ers can take advantage of the Cowboys weaknesses on defense, there's a chance they might finally get in the win column.