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CMC to Face NFL's Stingiest Defense: Oppositional Research 💪

The San Francisco 49ers Week 5 matchup feels like a playoff matchup that is coming way too early in the season. Maybe that's because this is a historic NFC rivalry we've gotten to see renewed in the month of January in back-to-back seasons. The 49ers were responsible for ending Dallas' postseason runs in 2021 and 2022, handing them losses in the NFC Wild Card Game and in the NFC Divisional Round. So what should you be watching for on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 5?

Opponent Breakdown:

The Cowboys are the second of nine playoff teams from the 2022 campaign that the 49ers will face in 2023. Dallas, despite being upset in Week 3 by the Arizona Cardinals, are among the NFL's most highly touted teams early in the season. The team's setback in Week 3 didn't keep them down for long. They bounced back in a big way on Sunday, cruising past the New England Patriots with a 38-3 victory at AT&T Stadium.

One of the Cowboys calling cards in 2023 is a formidable pass rush headlined by one of the candidates for the 2022 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, Micah Parsons. Parsons is off to a hot start in 2023, racking up 4.0 sacks through four games and the unit as a whole has racked up 95 total pressures (14.0 sacks). The Cowboys defense is ranked No. 2 overall in yards per game allowed (259.8) and the stingiest when it comes to points per game allowed (10.3).

View game photos from the San Francisco 49ers Divisional Round matchup vs. the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's® Stadium.

Three Storylines to Watch in Week 5:

  • Running back Christian McCaffrey vs. Cowboys run defense: The NFL's leading rusher (459 yards) will be going head-to-head with a defense that typically is able to stall its opponents ground games. McCaffrey is riding a 13-game streak of scoring one-or-more touchdowns into this matchup, and he's coming off a career-high scoring day after punching in four touchdowns against the Cardinals. The Cowboys, on the other hand, defended well against the run, averaging just 75 rushing yards allowed per opponent if you factor out their Week 3 loss to Arizona.
  • Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott vs. 49ers defense: The 49ers closed out 2022 claiming the league's No. 1 overall defense, and the campaign for back-to-back titles on this side of the ball has continued. Through four games, San Francisco is top five in yards per game allowed (284.3), tied for third in points per game allowed (14.5) and tied for fourth in interceptions (5). Prescott will also have to contend with a pass rush featuring the reigning 2022 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Nick Bosa, who has just one sack on the year but has 10 quarterback hits. Prescott has had an up and down showing to start, logging 100-plus passer ratings in two of four games and throwing just one interception versus the Cardinals.
  • You can't talk Cowboys vs. 49ers without taking a walk down memory lane, and this road extends way back to the 70s. The all-time series between these two storied franchises is 19-19-1, so one team is sure to edge past the other on Sunday night. Of course, the heightened chapters of this rivalry revolve around six battles in the NFC Championship Games which the Cowboys have the advantage, and in more recent memory, two-straight playoff defeats for Dallas in the 2020s. Recent familiarity and the primetime slot for this game all feed into the hype of this matchup.

Notable Injuries Overview:

San Francisco 49ers

Dallas Cowboys

  • RB Rico Dowdle missed a portion of the Week 4 matchup due to a bruised hip.
  • RG Zack Martin is working through a bruised quadriceps.
  • LT Byron Smith has missed the last two games due to a lingering knee injury.
  • LB Micah Parsons suffered a knee/ankle injury versus the Patriots game but continued to play. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy stated it wasn't an injury of "high concern" headed into the practice week.

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