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49ers-Cowboys preview: 5 matchups to watch

The 49ers are a slim home underdog against the Cowboys in Week 4. There are a handful of interesting matchups that could swing this matchup.

The San Francisco 49ers are back home for a Week 4 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. The game kicks off at 1:25 p.m. PT, and the 49ers are a home underdog, getting around two points from the Cowboys. Dallas has back-to-back wins over Washington and Chicago, with rookie Dak Prescott off to an impressive start.

There will be plenty to watch on both sides of the ball. I thought we’d pull up a few potentially key matchups for the game. Some of these are player vs. player, but given the team nature of football, these are often going to be position unit vs. position unit, or position unit vs. player. What other matchups will you be watching?

49ers defensive front vs. Cowboys LT, LG

The Cowboys will be without left guard La’el Collins, and could also be without left tackle Tyron Smith. Collins has been formally ruled out with a toe injury, while Smith is questionable with a back injury that cost him Week 3 and practice all this week. Even if he plays, he will not be at 100 percent. The 49ers defensive front struggled last week against a bad Seahawks offensive line. The Cowboys line is a strength, and even without Smith and Collins, is probably still better than the Seahawks. Can the 49ers take advantage of the left side?

Dak Prescott vs. Jim O’Neil, 49ers secondary

The 49ers face a rookie quarterback in Dak Prescott who has impressed thus far. Of course, he is still a rookie quarterback, so there are opportunities to press him. Execution remains critical, but Jim O’Neil needs to have a proper game plan in place. There needs to be some aggressiveness, but the 49ers defense also needs to be in position to confuse the young rookie. The secondary in particular will need to bait Prescott into some bad decisions.

49ers CBs vs. Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams

The Cowboys are unlikely to have Dez Bryant available for this game due to a knee fracture. Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are the two receivers most likely to see opportunities, with Jason Witten the other notable pass catcher. On the other side of things, the 49ers will also not have Jimmie Ward due to a quadricep strain. Tramaine Brock will start on one side of the field, and Keith Reaser is likely to start on the other side of the field. Chris Davis will play in the slot, while Rashard Robinson will likely get a decent amount of snaps as the fourth cornerback. The Cowboys will focus on the ground game, but the 49ers will still have to keep a close eye on the receivers to avoid the big plays that killed them last week.

49ers OL vs. Cowboys DL

The 49ers defense will be critical in this game, but on offense, the game rests on the shoulders of Carlos Hyde. The 49ers offensive line has done a great job in pass protection, but has struggled in run blocking. This matchup will likely be the difference-maker for the 49ers offense.

49ers WRs vs. Cowboys secondary

A week ago, the Seattle Seahawks secondary was happy to give Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers wide receivers space underneath. The Seahawks are technically sound tacklers, and were able to prevent any significant yards after the catch for much of the game. Blaine Gabbert needs to put his receivers in a position to make plays, but if the Cowboys are not sound in their tackling, the 49ers could actually manage to make some plays in the passing game.