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#Channel49 hyperventilates at the thought of meaningful football, discusses 49ers vs. Cowboys

Every Friday at 2pm PT, Trevor Woods and I host a Twitter Q&A session with countless 49ers fans from around the web and around the world. This week, we were joined by Tre, Steph and Nick, fellow staff writers at Niners Nation, and the fun overflowed. Check it out sometime.

Jed Jacobsohn

This week, the only thing on people's minds was real football. I don't mean REAL as in not soccer. I mean the 49ers are going to play a game that means something for the first time since January, when our season ended in some nondescript fashion...somehow.

With so many guest responders this week it was difficult to keep them in line. It was like herding cats, but we managed. Follow them all...

Shootout or Blowout?

I do think it will be a relatively high scoring game, especially by current 49ers standards. The Cowboys have some serious firepower on offense and will be able to put up some points. The one thing that I think prevents it from becoming a 'shootout' is that the 49ers should have success at grinding down the clock with our running game. As long as we stay in front, I think we control the time of possession and the amount of plays seen in the game. If we fall behind and are forced to pass to keep up, I think we can do it and still win, but we'll then be looking at a shootout.

Honestly, I don't expect us to handle Dez Bryant. Our secondary is going to be under pressure all day. The key to our pass defense, when it's been effective, is a strong pass rush. The Cowboys offensive line is a top unit and without our best rusher, Aldon Smith, I don't see us getting consistent pressure. We're then asking Chris Culliver or Tramaine Brock to stick with Dez while Tony Romo sits in the pocket for far too long. We will definitely be giving up passing yards, especially if we're playing with a lead. Hopefully a timely interception or two makes Romo skittish, but we're not stopping Bryant, the second best receiver in the league.

I'm scared that the 49ers skill position players may pull hamstrings sprinting up and down the field on them.

But seriously, most every pundit in the national media is predicting the Cowboys to have an historically bad year on defense. They would have had some strength up the middle, but Sean Lee, their best defender and tackling machine, is out for the year and Henry Melton hasn't played in a year. I guess the only thing that would scare me is if we don't put up 500 yards and 35 points.

Our Secondary

I think our secondary takes some lumps early on in the season. Antoine Bethea is new to the team and all of the cornerbacks have serious questions, whether it's inexperience, inconsistency, injury or, in the case of Tramaine Brock, the fact that he'd be a number two at best on most any other team, but will be covering teams number one receivers. Our secondary has always been at its best when our pass rush is on top of its game. I think our inexperienced pass rushers and our inexperienced secondary can all take some steps forward throughout the year. Either of those aspects improving significantly will only help the other. Hopefully it all gels by midseason, when reinforcements begin to arrive.

Jimmy Ward will be seeing a ton of time at nickel back in his first career NFL game. In case you haven't noticed the change in the NFL, nickel backs are basically starters nowadays. He'll have his hands full with the Cowboys passing attack, as will the entire team. You would expect the 'Boys to target him, but I think it's just as likely they go after Chris Culliver. Cully hasn't played since he laid that egg in the Super Bowl nearly two years ago and has not looked great in preseason and camp. Ward, on the other hand, has looked good. He should be fine but these first two weeks are against two dynamic passing attacks, so the odd mistake will be forgivable.

I don't know if this question is depressing or cause to celebrate, because when you think about the answer, we haven't had much in the secondary. The answer would be Tarell Brown or Donte Whitner. I think you could argue that Carlos Rogers' 2011 season was the best by a member of the secondary during that timeframe, but he fell off after getting that big contract. I think Eric Reid will be the guy we point to in a few years, assuming Harbaugh and Co are around then.

So is that depressing, the quality of our secondary, or reason to celebrate? Ed Donatell and Vic Fangio have gotten so much out of so little. Whitner was a castaway, as was Rogers. Brown and Dashon Goldson were mid-round draft picks who lingered on the back end of the roster before becoming starters. Somehow we make it work. And that's why you should have hope for this secondary in 2014.

Other Week 1 Nonsense

He's 33 yards away from passing that milestone of milestones. It's possible he gets there in the first quarter. I'd expect Harbaugh and Roman to establish the run, especially with Sean Lee out for the Cowboys. As long as we're in front, we'll be running all day. Expect a ton of yards from the Frank Gore - Carlos Hyde combo, including a very special 33 yards from the greatest running back in 49ers history. I say he gets it on the first play of the second quarter.

The Cowboys will be vulnerable to tight ends and I'm really expecting and hoping for big things from Vance McDonald. Yeah, I'm stealing your answer. We don't need him to put up ridiculous numbers, but getting Delanie Walker-like production would go a long way toward improving our offense. Walker had 21 receptions, 344 yards and 3 touchdowns in our Super Bowl season. That's not much, but forcing the opponent to account for yet another target will go along way toward opening things up for the superstars.

On defense, I think Michael Wilhoite and Dan Skuta are going to have to be the hidden gems. I'm expecting the Cowboys to hold tight in pass protection, giving Tony Romo ample time in the passing game. We will get passed on this Sunday. Sometimes our defense gives up big passing totals, but as long as we can force the Cowboys to be one dimensional, we should cruise to victory. If DeMarco Murray and the running game have a big game, we'll be in for long day and could be staring at a loss. Patrick Willis is going to do his part, but he'll need some help. Enter Wilhoite and Skuta.

Had Alex Boone been around at any point during the last month or so then I might entertain that option. Besides, I don't think that Joe Looney played any better than Jonathan Martin did during the preseason. Had Looney played extremely well, then I could see the reasoning. Playing Boone at tackle means your playing a backup at both guard and tackle. But, you never know with Harbaugh.


Seattle looked really good on Thursday night. Their big weakness last season was the offensive line and that unit played well. Percy Harvin lived up to the hype and is adding another dimension to that offense and their defense looked as good as you would expect. I think we'll be able to run the ball on them when we play, as we always have, and then hope that our passing attack takes a larger step forward this year than theirs does. We've got to get the home field advantage for the playoffs and that will be a difficult, but doable task.

I'm taking this to be a general question and not simply one about the Cowboys game. Throughout the beginning of the year, I expect Carlos Hyde to assume the role that Kendall Hunter has when healthy, and that's taking up to a quarter of the teams snaps at running back. Frank Gore slowed down mightily at the end of last season and his yards per carry average was the worst of his career. Hyde is going to break off some runs that will make people clamour for more. But we must never forget that Gore is one of the best in the league at pass protection and blitz pickup. Until Hyde learns those nuances of the position, Gore will be deserving of the lions share of playing time, even if Hyde is doing more on the ground. By the end of the year, I think Hyde will be nearing a 50/50 split.

Greg Roman showed the most vanilla, boring, bland, unexciting playcalling one could dial up during the preseason. While we're not known for being creative with our passing attacks, Roman is a genius at designing and disguising the running attack. We saw none of that in August. That, coupled with some bad offensive line play by the backups playing on the first team left the offense with very little chance for success. Luckily, it doesn't matter one bit.

Herding cats, I tell you!

Prediction Fun

I'm taking away any chance of getting the score right by picking a preposterous one: 40-27 49ers. I guess that's a safety in there. Why not?

As for Colin Kaepernick's stats. We need big things from him this year, especially if the defense is not its typical top-5 self, which is a very likely possibility. We'll get a good gauge of how good the offense can be as they're up against what were two of the worst defenses last season in the Cowboys and the Bears. I expect the Bears to be improved, but these Cowboys are downright bad. I'm thinking 350 yards passing and 2 touchdowns through the air with another 40 yards and a score on the ground with a zero percent chance of me being right on any of this.

What are your predictions?

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