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Wild-Card Weekend Betting Preview and Best Bet: 49ers-Cowboys

Analysis and a best bet for Sunday's throwback Wild-Card matchup featuring the Cowboys welcoming the 49ers.

The middle game of Sunday's Wild-Card Weekend slate features two archrivals when Dak Prescott and the Cowboys play host to Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.

The rivalry which delivered “The Catch" in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, then gave NFL fans three consecutive NFC Championship matchups in the mid-1990s which resulted in three eventual Super Bowl Champions (Dallas (2), 1992-1993; San Francisco (1), 1994).

No. 6 San Francisco, who finished in third place in the highly competitive NFC West with a 10-7 straight-up (SU) record, helped NFL bettors turn a small profit after posting a 9-8 against the spread (ATS) mark. The 49ers, who are 6-3 SU and 5-4 ATS on the road, will look to stay red-hot after winning seven of their final nine regular season games.

Dallas earned the No. 3 seed in the NFC after winning the NFC East. The Cowboys, who finished with a 12-5 SU record, were the most profitable team for NFL bettors to invest in after posting an astounding 13-4 ATS mark. The Cowboys head into the postseason having won five of their last six games both SU and ATS thanks in part to an explosive offense as well possessing the league’s best defense in takeaways (34). Dallas has one of the best front sevens in the NFL led by rookie Micah Parsons and his 13 sacks, as well as DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. On the back end, the Cowboys have a true star in Trevon Diggs who led the NFL in interceptions (11).

The immediate question for bettors is easy: Do you want back the trendy public underdog play of the Wild-Card round in the peaking 49ers or back a balanced Dallas squad that has covered the spread at a 76% clip?

Check Wild-Card Weekend Lines at SI Sportsbook

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif.

No. 6. San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at No. 3 Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Spread: San Francisco 49ers +3.5 (-110) | Dallas Cowboys -3.5 (-110)
Moneyline: San Francisco (+140) | Dallas (-167)
Total: 51 – Over (-110) | Under 51(-110)
Public (Spread) Betting Percentages: SF 59% | DAL 41%
Game Info: Sunday Jan. 16, 2022 | 4:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Editor's Note - Odds are subject to change

The line has slightly increased since its opener in favor of Dallas (12-5 SU; 13-4 ATS) over San Francisco (9-8 SU; 8-8-1 ATS) as 3-point home favorites at SI Sportsbook.

San Francisco, who owns the NFL’s seventh-best rushing offense (127.4 rushing yards per game), will now face a Dallas defense that surrendered the seventh-fewest points per game (21.1) in the regular season.

On the ground, the 49ers' offensive attack is anchored by Elijah Mitchell, who despite only playing in 11 games due to various injuries led the team with 963 rushing yards. In addition, San Francisco employs leading wideout Deebo Samuel in the backfield as the versatile third-year talent finished second on the club in rushing yards (365) but even more impressively led the club in rushing touchdowns (8).

In the passing attack, Samuel as well as fellow wideout Brandon Aiyuk and elite pass-catching tight end George Kittle are the club’s top offensive weapons.

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Samuel, who led the club in receptions (77) and receiving yards (1,405), finished first among wide receivers with an impressive 18.2 yards per reception. Kittle, who reached his stride in Weeks 13-15 averaging 8.3 receptions and 141.6 receiving yards has been non-existent over the last three games, recording seven receptions for 51 receiving yards combined. The 49ers will need Kittle to have significant production if they have any hopes of leaving Texas with a victory.

On the other side of the ball, Dak Prescott commands an explosive Cowboys offensive attack that led the NFL in scoring at 31.2 points per game. Prescott, who finished seventh in the NFL in passing yards (4,449) and fourth in passing touchdowns (37), will face a 49ers defense that has surrendered the sixth-fewest passing yards (206.5) per game. The outstanding signal caller was operating at an optimum level over the final three weeks of the regular season throwing 12 touchdowns.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) breaks away from Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Arlington, Texas.

At his disposal in the passing game, Prescott has the elite wideout tandem of CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper as well as tight end Dalton Shultz. Dallas will be depending on strong production in the passing game and they have the weapons to accomplish those goals. However, Lamb has slumped over the second half of the season, not scoring a touchdown since Week 10 while not posting a 100-yard receiving game since Week 8. They will need the dynamic wide receiver to produce solid production in his first career playoff game.

As always the Dallas rushing attack will be led by veteran Ezekiel Elliott. The sixth-year back heads into the playoffs off his fourth 1,000-plus-yards rushing season of his career. The veteran, who has suffered from a nagging knee injury during portions of this season, has shown an explosive burst in recent weeks that was missing from his game. Elliott could find tough sledding against a 49ers defense that only allowed one opposing running back to eclipse 100 rushing yards in a game this season (Jonathan Taylor, 107; Week 7).

This is easily the most difficult game of the six Wild-Card matchups to handicap. Early respected money in Las Vegas is backing a Dallas club that has yielded a financial windfall this season. Besides beating the betting line at an astounding 76% this season, Dallas has impressively posted a 10-3 ATS mark in their last 13 games as a favorite.

The one concerning aspect of that stat is that all three of those ATS losses have occurred at AT&T Stadium over the last 10 games - which also resulted in outright losses (Cardinals, Raiders and Broncos). Nevertheless, as we know the NFL playoffs is a completely different animal and the Cowboys were my pick to win the Super Bowl at SI Sportsbook on double-digit value alone - +1100.

BET: Dallas -3 (Buy hook if needed) (-118)

SI BET REVIEW

2021 SI Betting Monday Night Football: 9-8 ATS / Props 16-12 +5.75 units
2021 SI Betting NFL Football Overall YTD: 45-37 ATS & Props +11.12 Units
2020 SI Betting NFL Football: 72-58-1 ATS (55%)

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Frankie Taddeo is a successful high-stakes fantasy football player who created the first-ever DFS program ever offered in a Las Vegas sportsbook. Frankie is SI Betting's Senior Analyst and provides his significant experience and resources in the sports betting scene. You can follow Frankie on Twitter @Frankie_Fantasy for his latest betting and fantasy insights from Las Vegas.

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