IRVING, Texas – It's finally here.
The Cowboys kick off their 2014 regular season at home this weekend against the 49ers. The Cowboys enter this season with questions about the defense and Tony Romo's back, but they still boast some serious offensive firepower. The 49ers, meanwhile, come in with questions about the defense after key losses in Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman.
Here are the first gut feelings of the regular season for staff writers Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, Bryan Broaddus and David Helman.
Nick Eatman:Well, it's finally here. How is it that I haven't seen one practice from the 49ers and I know what to expect from them. But the Cowboys, a team I've seen every minute of practice in OTAs, minicamp and training camp and the four preseason games and yet I have no clue what they're going to do. There are some negative vibes about this team and it stems from defense. I think we're going to be surprised how well they
play. It doesn't mean it will be good enough but Rod Marinelli's defenses don't get smashed around that often. He will have a good plan for this game. Bruce Carter is going to play well and will come up with a key turnover. On offense, I'm predicting at least eight catches from Jason Witten, who takes advantage of the way the 49ers cover Dez. I really can see either team winning this game but my gut keeps drifting towards the visitors.
Rowan Kavner: At first, everyone had written the Cowboys off for this opener. Then, they became a popular upset pick, particularly with the key injuries to the 49ers. All the focus will be on this defense, and until they show differently, it's hard to expect a drastic change from last year's group. The 49ers rushing attack, including what Colin Kaepernick can do with his legs, may be too much. Dan Bailey makes three field goals, Lance Dunbar finally bursts onto the scene and gets his first career touchdown, J.J. Wilcox makes a big momentum-shifting play - possibly his first career interception (finally not called back) – and Rolando McClain has two "woah" hits. But the 49ers are the only team to reach 30 points, pulling out the opener by a touchdown.
Bryan Broaddus: Of all the weapons on this Cowboys offense that Scott Linehan can use, Cole Beasley will be the one that shines the brightest against the 49ers. In preparing for this game, my gut feeling is that it could very well come down to how well the Cowboys convert on third down opportunities to keep drives alive. Beasley is one of the best when it comes down to finding that open space in the secondary and making a secure catch. He will be matched up against the talented but inexperienced Jimmie Ward out of the slot and I fully expect to see Tony Romo take advantage of that situation. [embedded_ad]
David Helman: The one positive about a defense with this many unknowns is that we truly don't know 100 percent what to expect when the Cowboys take the field for Week 1. We should finally get a look at guys like Henry Melton and Morris Claiborne, who missed the preseason, and Rolando McClain, who appears to be ready for a full game. Maybe they'll surprise us all. That said, I've seen enough of the defense's struggles in training camp and the preseason to feel pretty pessimistic. I think Colin Kaepernick is going to have a strong day running the ball, and either Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis – or maybe both – will excel, as well. The Cowboys offense should have success against a 49er defense that isn't at full strength, but I still think San Francisco is more capable of making stops than Dallas. The Niners win a wild one, something like 31-27.