When speaking about sports rivalries, Cowboys-49ers is usually the first football fans think about. This rivalry has everything you want: two evenly-matched powerhouse franchises both with multiple Super Bowls, superstars, and intense and dedicated fans.
In 36 games, the Cowboys lead 18-17-1. They first met in 1960, which the 49ers won. The two sides have alternated dominance over the other by decade. The 49ers owned the 60s and 80s while the Cowboys dominated the 70s.
Their rivalry peaked from the late 80s to late 90s, an era that saw both teams win a combined total of six Super Bowls and face each other three times in the postseason. The Cowboys hold the playoff edge with a 5-2 record while the 49ers controlled the regular season, 6-2.
In recent years, the Cowboys have regained control of the rivalry and have won five of their last six meetings dating back to the 2005 season. Dallas has generally been better than the 49ers except for Jim Harbaugh's brief stint in the early 2010s. Now that both teams are again on an even playing field, the rivalry can finally get its long-anticipated revival.
Dallas Cowboys Recent History
Dallas has been mostly mediocre since the turn of the new millennium. The Cowboys has only suffered three losing seasons from 2003 onwards but they've also only made six playoff appearances and have only won two playoff games (a record of 2-6 since 2003). For America's Team, this is unacceptable.
The franchise flirted with greatness during the Tony Romo era finishing with 11 wins or more on three separate occasions but they were mostly just fringe playoff contenders. Jason Garrett took over as coach in 2011 and Romo retired following the 2015 season, the Cowboys' worst season in 25 years.
This came as a blessing-in-disguise as the team managed to draft Elliott and jumpstart a new era for the Cowboys alongside Prescott and one of the NFL's best offensive lines. With a dependable defence, the Cowboys are once again showing promise. But they still have a long way to go to prove they are at least better than the last generation.
San Francisco 49ers Recent History
Much like their rivals, the 49ers haven't had anywhere close to the level of success since they last won a Super Bowl in 1994. But unlike the Cowboys, the 49ers have been a losing franchise save for a brief period in the 2010s. Since 2003, the 49ers have only had three winning seasons and have had five seasons with five wins or less.
The Harbaugh era lasted only four seasons but produced their only winning seasons including a return to the Super Bowl in a losing effort. Since then, the 49ers have been a cellar dweller in the NFC West. But things are again shifting as the division is entering a period of rebirth.
The arrival of Garropolo aka "Jimmy G" also signals what could be the start of a new powerhouse team. Anchored by a solid defence and enough pieces on offence, the 49ers are ready to take off.
Dallas Cowboys Outlook
Last season could've been an aberration or a foreshadowing depending what happens in 2018. Dallas isn't just returning with a full roster but with reinforcements at wide receiver and linebacker. If they stay healthy they can make a deep playoff run. Any worse and coach Jason Garrett could be getting his walking papers.
The Cowboys have a young core but can't take too long to make a run for the Super Bowl. It isn't out of the question for the team to win now even when playing in an unpredictable division that is slowly but surely improving.
At the very least, making it back to the conference finals for the first time in nearly 25 years will be a strong sign. If they keep their main pieces and Prescott improves, a sixth Super Bowl championship could be coming soon.
San Francisco 49ers Outlook
Garropolo not only gives the 49ers stability at quarterback but a blueprint of what to build around. The team is still lacking on the offensive line and even after using a first-round pick to take a tackle, there is much to be done. The return of lead receiver Pierre Garcon will also be a boon.
The 49ers defence is better than the 2017 stats. They finished in the bottom-third in both points and yards allowed but a lot of that was due to playing with little to no help from the offence for the first ten games. In the six games Garropolo played, the defence allowed only 20.5 points a game, good for a top-10 spot.
It's best to take a wait-and-see approach with this team especially heading into the next season. Garropolo surprised everyone in 2017 but teams won't get caught off guard again. This team is the NFC's dark horse.
The 49ers have a formidable defence and added even more help through the draft. Both their front-seven and secondary ar at least three-deep with the exception of the safety, which could be their soft spot.
The Cowboys will roll out Cooper Rush who went undrafted in 2017. The 24-year-old isn't spectacular but is at least a dependable pocket passer behind Dallas's stiff offensive line. The 49ers will counter with CJ Beathard who was underwhelming as a rookie last season.
Beathard should at least be improved after having the offseason to learn about the 49ers playbook. He doesn't have the same line Rush will play with but he has the better defence backing him up. Either way, this game has the makings of a low-scoring affair.
San Francisco should win the game on the strength of their depth. Though it's closer to a toss-up.