Skip to main content

Big Picture

Presented by

Big Picture: 10 big storylines for 49ers & Cowboys


Here's the one we've all been waiting for. The Cowboys and 49ers have been two of the best teams in the NFL for the last few years, but it has been San Francisco that has knocked out Dallas in each of the last two playoffs.

The Cowboys weren't able to get here unscathed, losing to the Cardinals in Week 3 but the 49ers are every bit the team we thought, winning four straight without any issues.

As we get ready for Sunday's showdown in San Francisco, here are the 10 big storylines for the week, with five for the 49ers and five for the Cowboys.


  1. Best team in football – The 49ers are the obvious pick right now for the NFL's best team, sitting at No. 1 in just about every power rankings you can find. And they're doing so with a balanced attack. After four games, the 49ers are the only team in the NFL with a Top 5 ranking on both offense (2) and defense (5). Last week, they manhandled the Cardinals, 35-16, just a week after the same Arizona team stunned the Cowboys.
  2. McCaffrey dominant again – Traded to the 49ers from Carolina last season, it took a bit for Christian McCaffrey became the player he was early in his career. But through four games, McCaffrey has definitely found a groove, becoming the only player in the NFL with 600 yards from scrimmage, including 459 rushing.
  3. Sitting Purdy on offense – The development of Brock Purdy continues to grow. He's gone from the last pick of the 2022 draft, to a surprising rookie that led the 49ers to wins down the stretch, to a player that is now running the show for a 49ers offense that has committed just one turnover in four games.
  4. How healthy are the 49ers? – Do-it-all back/receiver Deebo Samuel played last week but wasn't too effective as he continues to deal with knee and ribs injuries. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Samuel is 'day-to-day.' Other injuries include lineman Jon Feliciano, who sustained a concussion last week and is currently in the protocol.
  5. Watch for DPOY? – If Micah Parsons is going to claim the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award, he's going to have to unseat 49ers pass-rusher Nick Bosa, who won the award last year with 18.5 sacks. Just like Parsons has seen, Bosa is getting a lot of double-teams this year, warranting in just one sack through four games. But Bosa demands a lot of attention, especially if the Cowboys are going to be without Tyron Smith, who has been the last two games.


  1. Back to themselves again? – After four weeks, are the real Cowboys the ones that smashed the Patriots, 38-3 and dominated the Jets and Giants in the first two games, or closer to the team that struggled and lost in Arizona? Only way to find out, and that's travel up to San Francisco for a clash with the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs each of the last two years and is currently sitting at 4-0.
  2. Defense tightening up in second half – The Cowboys currently have the NFL's No. 2 ranked defense, allowing 259.8 yards per game. But when it comes to scoring, hardly anything is occurring in the second half. They gave up seven points to the Cardinals in the second half back in Week 3, but those are the only points allowed by this team in the third and fourth quarters all season.
  3. Tyron getting close? – Left tackle Tyron Smith has missed the last two games with a knee injury but owner/GM Jerry Jones described him as "iffy" for the game Sunday in San Francisco. The team continues to work backup Chuma Edoga on the left side to keep Tyler Smith at left guard when Tyron Smith eventually returns. Having the team at full strength against the 49ers pass-rush that includes Nick Bosa would be beneficial for the Cowboys.
  4. New-look kickers – Ironically enough, last year's playoff loss to the 49ers came down to two kickers. San Francisco's Robbie Gould hit a few clutch kicks, while Brett Maher had lost his confidence and the Cowboys had to play with a different mindset. Fast forward to now and both teams have new kickers. The 49ers drafted Jake Moody, who has made all nine field goals and all 14 extra points. Brandon Aubrey has made all 13 of his field goals and 9-of-10 on extra points, including the last nine.
  5. Lance returns in new role – Trey Lance will be in uniform Sunday night for the Cowboys, likely as the No. 3 quarterback. What a change of scenery it'll be for the No. 3 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, figured to be the future QB for the 49ers. Instead, injuries plagued him to the point where Brock Purdy entered the scene and allowed the team to part ways with Lance, who was traded in August to the Cowboys. Running the scout-team offense and learning behind Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush, Lance is not expected to be a factor this year but the team is hopeful to develop him for down the road.

Related Content