It’s tough to envision a scenario in which the Dallas Cowboys would not be NFL gambling sites' favorites against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday.
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Sure, the Boys’ internecine strife, in which it seems as if it is the defense’s job to go on the field and piss on everything the offense has just accomplished, has resulted in a 2-3 record and two straight losses before going on bye.
The Niners, on the other hand, are, with the Cleveland Browns, one of just two winless teams this season, released arguably their best defensive player, linebacker NaVorro Bowman on Friday, and will start rookie CJ Beathard, of whom saying he’s better than Brian Hoyer is damning faint praise.
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Unlike the 49ers, the Cowboys can’t complain about their offense, which will remain ‘as is’ now that running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension has been suspended yet again, this time for a fortnight. Dallas’ dependence on Zeke reeks, not of awesomeness, but of desperation, according to Hall of Famer and former Eagles, Vikings, and Dolphins wide receiver Cris Carter – no relation to the X-Files creator – who says that the Cowboys are, without Elliott, not a great team.
Sort of a moot point, though, considering they haven’t been a great team even with Zeke on the starting lineup, but they are still definitely better that the Niners – again, damning faint praise, but even the defense (the Cowboys’ defense, that is, not the 49ers’) should be hard pressed to find a way to screw up a fourth straight win at Levi's Stadium.
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Speaking of defense, linebackers Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens and defensive ends David Irving and Damontre Moore have all recovered from their respective injuries, leaving defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli no excuses on his quest to remain gainfully employed.
In spite of being healthier than most teams are at this point in the season, though, some have suggested that the Cowboys should nonetheless upgrade their defense on the trade market, especially on cornerback, for example acquiring Richard Sherman from Seattle.
On Sunday, however, it’s the Niners that will be looking for all the help they can get against Elliott, Dak Prescott, and the rest of the Dallas offense, except this time linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Reuben Foster won’t be able just turn tail and call the cops.
The Cowboys are a far cry from where they were at this point last season, but they are coming off their week off, during which they presumably addressed their internal problems, and, at least for one more week, Elliott is not a question mark.
The stage is set, all things considered, for Dallas to return to winning; whether they remain above .500 is another matter entirely.
As for the Niners, unless Beathard, who completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception on relief duty on Sunday’s loss to the Redskins, turns out to be as pleasant a surprise as Prescott was last season, San Francisco is likely to become the Cowboy’s sacrificial lamb.
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