FRISCO, Texas — When the full NFL schedule dropped in May, the Dallas Cowboys' matchup against the San Francisco 49ers took center-stage in early season heavyweight showdowns across the league for good reason.
With star-studded power on both sides of the ball, key one-on-one matchups will litter all 60 minutes in helping to decide who takes control of one of the top spots in the NFC.
Here are the key matchups to watch on Sunday night that will help determine who comes out on top.
Micah Parsons vs. Trent Williams
Another week, another huge opportunity for Micah Parsons to add to his Defensive Player of the Year resume in a matchup with San Francisco left tackle Trent Williams.
Fresh off his 10th consecutive Pro Bowl appearance in 2022, Williams has been putting together some of his best work early in 2023 by being Pro Football Focus' highest-rated tackle in the NFL going into week five. Handling all 6-foot-5, 320 pounds of Williams will be a challenge for Parsons when he attempts to get into the backfield off the right edge.
One caveat to this matchup is the potential that Parsons will see many different alignments on Sunday night similar to how he was used against the New England Patriots. With an opportunity to create substantial internal pressure from the interior of the Niners' offensive line, Parsons could see some opportunities over center early and often. But when he's lined up in what he's been aligned in for most of his early career off the right edge, the clash with Trent Williams will be a main card event.
DaRon Bland vs. Brandon Aiyuk
Through two games filling in for Trevon Diggs as a feature boundary cornerback, second-year defender DaRon Bland has excelled which included his two interception performance last week against New England. This week, the challenge only grows more difficult against the San Francisco receiving weapons that he'll line up against.
For the most part, Bland's feature matchup will be against Brandon Aiyuk, who has started his fourth season in the NFL by averaging over 100 yards per game and has accounted for two of the 49ers' five receiving touchdowns. His size and physicality in route running has caused issues for defenders, but Bland has an opportunity to match that physicality with his experience that he got at nickel last season.
If Bland can keep his matchups in check and keep his solid play consistent, Brock Purdy will be mistaken-prone in trying to force things to his side. Needless to say, a big opportunity awaits for the Fresno State product in his return to Northern California in his first game as a defensive captain for the Cowboys.
Terence Steele vs. Nick Bosa
In a matchup that may strike some fear into Cowboys fans, the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year will take the field in search of a dominant effort against the newly paid Cowboys right tackle Terence Steele who is settling back into his role after tearing his ACL last season.
Despite three games between these two teams since both have been in the league, Sunday night will be the first time that Steele and Bosa will go against each other in their career. For Steele, the challenge is to force Bosa off the edge and into his inside shoulder to disallow openings between him and Zack Martin.
Bosa excels at using his athleticism to push tackles outside to either get around them for sacks himself or to open up holes on the inside of the offensive line to set up opportunities for others. In order to keep Dak Prescott clean in the pocket, Steele will have to match Bosa's athleticism on Sunday night.