DALLAS - It may not look like much on the schedule. A road game against a winless San Francisco team in the middle of October certainly won't do much for TV ratings.
But for a Dallas Cowboys team toying with disaster, this game could very well make or break their season.
Look no further than the NFC East standings. Dallas is already staring up at a 5-1 Eagles team and 3-2 Redskins squad. Philadelphia has arguably been the most consistent team in the NFC, while Washington has come on strong as of late.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys entered their bye week on the heels of a devastating defeat at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the week before that they let the Los Angeles Rams come back and beat them at home in Arlington. They've had two weeks to stew in a vat of mediocrity at 2-3, and now must rapidly bounce back.
Falling to 2-4 would practically be a death sentence. Because should Dallas lose to the winless 49ers, you can pretty much close the book on their season.
Consider this: the Cowboys still have Kansas City, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington (twice) and Philadelphia (twice) on the schedule – all teams with winning records. If Dallas is unable to notch a win against a C.J. Beathard led San Francisco team, that doesn't exactly bode well for success later in the year.
If anything, Dallas has to use this game against the 49ers to get back on track. Their offense, through five games, has sputtered when comparing it to the well-oiled machine of last season.
The Cowboys rank ninth in the NFL in total yards, averaging 356.2 yards per game. Dak Prescott has struggled at times even making routine throws, is forcing throws he wouldn't have attempted last year, and has not developed a rapport with Dez Bryant. Ezekiel Elliott simply hasn't been as explosive, and the offensive line has yet to completely mesh.
Against elite teams like Philadelphia and Kansas City later in the year, the time of possession battle will be paramount. Dallas has to be able to lean on what hopefully becomes a dominant offense and control the line of scrimmage, because the longer Prescott & Co. are on the field, the less the Cowboys' defense has to make an appearance.
Dallas' defense has surrendered 76 points in the second half alone this year, and have repeatedly failed to get stops in crunch time. The 49ers present a perfect opportunity for Dallas to gain a much-needed confidence boost. San Francisco ranks 20th in the league in total offense, averaging just 18.8 points per game.
With a slate of playoff-caliber opponents looming, this could be the Cowboys' last chance to right the ship and find their footing. It may just be a regular season game in October, but Sunday's matchup with San Francisco has implications that will affect Dallas' playoff chances come January.
For better or worse.
How do you feel about the Cowboys' chances of taking home a victory against the 49ers on Sunday? Share your thoughts with Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.
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