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49ers vs. Cowboys game preview: This matchup is a box office dream

Two of the most storied franchises in NFL history will meet for the 9th time in the playoffs

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The 49ers and Cowboys rivalry takes the postseason stage for the ninth time ever. Fresh off a convincing win over the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, Dallas comes to the Bay Area with a trip to the NFC Championship on the line for both of these teams.

DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the 49ers listed as a 4-point favorite, with the over-under at 46. Here are a few facets of the game to keep an eye on in the latest edition of one of the most storied rivalries in all sports.

This matchup is box office

Dallas and San Francisco on a postseason stage is a ratings dream for the NFL and its broadcasting partners. Finally, two of the largest and most iconic franchises in professional sports are on a win-or-go-home stage that is sure to garner the attention of tens of millions of eager viewers.

Postseason success is something that is synonymous with both teams, as Dallas and San Francisco currently rank second and third all-time in postseason wins, with the Cowboys at 36 and the 49ers at 35.

The Cowboys currently lead the all-time postseason series between these two teams 5-3, but the 49ers are on the winning end of the last two playoff meetings, including the last postseason game played in the Bay Area between these two teams.

You would struggle to find a more hated rival for many fans on both sides. However, this matchup has everything you could possibly ask for. We have two stacked teams with decades worth of resentment building up to what could be an all-time clash in Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon.

Turnovers will tell the tale

The 49ers and Cowboys both finished the season as the two best teams in turnover differential, with San Francisco at +13 and Dallas at +10. The Cowboys finished the year with more takeaways than the 49ers but also were a bit more careless with the football, turning it over 23 times while San Francisco did 17 times themselves.

Turnovers are important in any postseason game, but they could end up being the deciding factor in this matchup between two of the most potent defenses in the league when it comes to forcing takeaways. It’s also worth noting that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott tied for the league lead in interceptions during the regular season, despite playing in just 12 of the 17 games on the schedule.

Incredible matchups in the trenches

This game is sure to be a treat for anyone who is a fan of the battle at the line of scrimmage. On one side, you have a first ballot hall of fame talent in Trent Williams, who is likely to see some snaps against an absolute force in Michah Parsons, who has been named first-team All-Pro in each of his first two NFL seasons.

Even when Dallas inevitably lines Parsons up opposite Mike McGlinchey, the latter has shown he is more than capable of holding his own in big spots after posting a clean sheet the week prior in the Wild Card round.

Perhaps my favorite matchup in this entire game will be on the interior between Arik Armstead and Zack Martin. Martin is a sure-fire hall-of-fame player who is firmly in the conversation for the best guard to ever play the game. At the same time, Armstead is a bonafide playoff performer who has logged six sacks in seven career postseason games, including last year’s Wild Card matchup in Dallas.

Tale of two kickers

Yes, they are people too! Coming into this game, the respective kickers from both sides are polar opposites, given the confidence they instill when trotting out to make a kick.

Robbie Gould is a perfect 25-25 on field goal attempts, while Dallas’ Brett Maher is coming off of a game that saw him miss four extra points, the first time that has happened in any game in NFL history.

Things can change week to week, and perhaps Maher has moved past the yips he so clearly struggled with on Monday night in Tampa, but as of now, Gould definitively has the edge should this game come down to a crunch time kick.

Potential history for Christian McCaffrey

It seems all McCaffrey has done since he joined the 49ers is put his name in elite company by accomplishing rare feats. Once again, McCaffrey has the chance to do that against Dallas, where he can become just the fourth player in NFL history to record over 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in their first three career postseason games.

Terrell Davis, Larry Fitzgerald, and Arian Foster are the only other players to accomplish that feat. McCaffrey can also join former 49ers running back Ricky Watters as the only running backs in NFL history to record a receiving touchdown in three consecutive postseason games.