The Worksheet, a fantasy football overview by Rich Hribar, breaking down everything you need to know for the Wild Card San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon game.
|42.54%||19||Opp. Rush %||39.65%||9|
|57.46%||14||Opp. Pass %||60.35%||24|
Against the Spread
Cowboys ATS at Home: 5-3
49ers ATS Away: 5-4
Cowboys ATS as Favorite: 10-3
49ers ATS as Underdog: 2-1
This is the lone game of Wild Card Weekend that is not a rematch from the regular season.
Dallas pulled away in the NFC East early, winning the division for the first time since 2018. Dallas was the league’s highest-scoring team and was the best team in the NFL against the spread for bettors. Dallas only was 3-4 versus 2021 playoff teams, however, with two of those three wins coming against the Eagles. The Cowboys were 6-0 against NFC East opponents and 6-5 versus everyone else.
The 49ers used the most improbable comeback of the Next Gen Stats era on Sunday to earn a trip to the postseason. The 49ers are known for their rushing attack, but they led the NFL in yards per passing play (+1.8 yards) over their opponent. San Francisco also led the NFL in red zone conversion rate (66.7%).
While offenses will draw the focus, both of these teams have been excellent defensively in their own right. Dallas ranked third in the league in success rate allowed per dropback (41.0%) while the 49ers were fifth (41.7%). San Francisco was also second in the league in success rate allowed per rushing attempt (34.2%), the highest rate of any playoff team.
We also have a matchup between two of the most penalized teams in the league. San Francisco was 30th in the league in penalty yards per game (62.7) while Dallas was 31st (64.9). The Cowboys were last in the NFL with 7.5 penalties per game.
Dak Prescott: Dak cleaned up the final three weeks of the regular season, throwing 12 touchdown passes to zero interceptions. Two of those performances came against Washington and Philadelphia who were trotting out depleted personnel, so we still have some fragility in leaning into the counting stats to close the year.
The 49ers are another one of these teams that doesn’t send a lot of extra pass rushers and love to sit back in shell coverage. San Francisco blitzed 19.8% of the time (29th) in the regular season while playing zone coverage on 72.1% of their snaps (sixth). Prescott was much better this year against zone coverage, ranking sixth in the league in completion rate (73.7%) and seventh in yards per pass attempt (8.1 Y/A). Against man, Prescott posted a 46.5% completion rate (23rd) and 6.5 Y/A (20th).
Dallas is going to rely on the pass here, though, since the 49ers have been so good against the run. We touched on that in the lead-in. San Francisco is second in the league in success rate allowed per rush and also second in DVOA against the run. While their success rate is high against the pass, they are 16th in pass defense DVOA. They also were middle of the pack in a number of areas, ranking 15th in yards allowed per pass attempt (7.1 Y/A), 29th in completion rate (68.3%), and 16th in touchdown rate (4.6%). We have seen Prescott and the Cowboys go into a few lulls, but the strength of their offense in this game will be their passing game.
Jimmy Garoppolo: Many thought Garoppolo had made his final start for the 49ers in Week 16 after suffering a torn thumb ligament. Many thought he then made his final start with the 49ers after the 49ers trailed 17-3 at the half on Sunday and then punted away the ball with 1:57 left and down seven in regulation. But Garoppolo turned in his best series as a 49er to close out regulation and delivered a scoring drive in overtime to get San Francisco into the postseason.
For fantasy, Garoppolo has scored 16 or more points in one of his past eight games and he delivered just two top-10 scoring weeks all season. We know what we have in Garoppolo in fantasy as a floor-based option that rarely taps into a massive ceiling.
Dallas uses two primary coverages to make up the bulk of their defensive snaps. They play the most Cover 1 in the league (34.4%) and then are in Cover 3 for 33.4% of their plays. The 49ers have faced Cover 3 on 40.4% of their snaps, which was the second-highest rate in the league. Against Cover 3, Garoppolo was sixth in the league in rating (102.3) and led the NFL with a 76.2% completion rate. Cover 1 was a much different story, with Garoppolo completing 57.1% of his passes (18th) with an 89.8 rating (14th).
Elijah Mitchell: Mitchell has been the workhorse anytime he has been active. Returning to action the past two weeks after missing time for the third time this year, Mitchell has handled 44-of-50 backfield touches in those games. Over his past five games played, Mitchell has 23 or more touches in all five with 21 or more carries in each.
The only two thorns for Mitchell are that he has not been hyperactive in the passing game, seeing more than two targets in just three games while failing to even log a target in five of his 11 games played. He also shares red zone work with the versatile Deebo Samuel, which has limited him to five rushing scores. That can create a vacuum where we are only getting points from rushing yardage.
We know we can buy the touches, however, and Dallas can be run on. The Cowboys allowed 4.36 yards per carry (18th) to backs but were able to skirt allowing monster games since they faced the seventh-fewest rushing attempts from opposing backfields. That is unlikely to happen here unless Dallas pulls way ahead early.
Ezekiel Elliott: Dallas worked really hard to get Zeke to 1,000 yards in Week 18, feeding him 18 carries (his most since Week 5) against a depleted Philadelphia defense. With 19 touches for 90 yards in the game, it was the first time he posted more than 76 total yards in a game since Week 6.
We know what we have with Zeke, especially in this matchup. We are hunting for a touchdown. Elliott got back into the end zone 12 times this season. He accounted for a team-high 21 touches inside of the 10-yard line, which resulted in 10 of his scores.
San Francisco has been excellent against the run all season, allowing 3.57 yards per carry to backs (second), but they did allow 13 rushing scores to those backs (19th). They also were 20th in receptions allowed per game (5.2) to backs to offer some reception appeal from a matchup stance.
Tony Pollard: Pollard has chipped in with 50 or more yards in each of his past seven games played, so we will surely see him mixed into the offense Sunday. The downside for Pollard is he still does not carry a lot of volume (single-digit touches in five of his past nine games) and has next to no touchdown equity, accruing just three opportunities inside of the 10-yard line all season. Pollard is more of a flyer, looking to cash in a big play to get there for fantasy.
Deebo Samuel: Samuel would have a legitimate claim to Offensive Player of the Year if Cooper Kupp didn’t push every receiving record in 2021. Samuel had the most unique season for a wideout in league history, producing a 77-1,405-6 line receiving to go along with a 59-365-8 line rushing. Samuel was fifth in the NFL in receiving yards but was 43rd in the league in routes run among wide receivers.
Samuel was the biggest reason the 49ers were able to fight back against the Rams Sunday, scoring on the ground and throwing a touchdown pass in the third quarter. He then added a 43-yard catch and run on the final drive in regulation to set up the game-tying score.
Samuel has seen more than six targets in just one of his past eight games, but we know the 49ers are going to get him the football. Samuel is one of the toughest matchups for defenses since he plays everywhere. Samuel logged snaps out wide (536), in the slot (209), in the backfield (80), and even was inline for a snap in six different games this season.
Amari Cooper: Cooper spoke up three weeks about needing more targets and Dallas responded by targeting him 26.8%, 18.4%, and 26.9% of the time since his commentary with seven or more targets in each of those games.
Even with the recent surge in opportunities, Cooper was still largely a boom-or-bust fantasy asset. He delivered two 100-yard games and three WR1 scoring weeks, but also had nine games as the WR36 or lower, posting 55 yards or fewer in nine of his 15 games. Cooper does carry touchdown equity to salvage low yardage games, leading the Cowboys with 10 end zone targets.
If there is a soft spot in the 49ers’ defense, it is through wide receiver play. San Francisco allowed a 66.7% catch rate (29th), 8.4 yards per target (24th), and a 5.2% touchdown rate (19th) to opposing wideouts.
CeeDee Lamb: CeeDee went out like a… (I can’t do it) in the regular season. Lamb posted just one WR2 or better scoring week over his final seven games in the regular season. Lamb has not scored a touchdown since Week 10 and he has seen just 11 targets over the final three weeks despite running a pass route on 105-of-119 team dropbacks.
That said, the talent, playing time, and matchup are all still positives in Lamb’s corner despite the low output to close the season. There is volatility here with all of the Cowboy wide receivers, but we are expecting the Dallas passing game to be a point of emphasis here while the defensive signal suggests to focus on the wideouts being the focal part of that attack.
Brandon Aiyuk: After spending the front half of the season in the doghouse, Aiyuk proved to be a steady fantasy asset over the back half of the year. Aiyuk was a top-30 scorer in seven of the final 10 weeks of the year while collecting 6.2 targets per game and 21.8% of the team targets over that span. Aiyuk closed the season with a season-high 107 yards receiving Sunday against the Rams.
If looking for a potential matchup signal, we mentioned earlier that no team has played more Cover 1 than the Cowboys this year. Against Cover 1, Aiyuk leads the 49ers in routes (109), targets (23), and receptions (14).
Cedrick Wilson: Wilson is back on the board as a fantasy dart with the loss of Michael Gallup. We have seen Wilson catch 11 passes the past two games while reaching the end zone three times, capping the best season of his early career with a 5-119-2 game last Saturday against the Eagles.
Wilson has only eclipsed 42 yards three times this season, but he has as many 100-yard games this season as Cooper and has caught as many touchdowns as Lamb. Wilson ran a pass route on 70.9% of the team dropbacks in the games that Gallup missed this season. The 49ers were an equal opportunity defense no matter where wideouts lined up, ranking 20th in points allowed per game to slot receivers (11.3 per game) where Wilson has played 76.9% of his snaps.
Jauan Jennings: Jennings was a playmaker in the season finale, setting career-highs with six catches on seven targets for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Jennings has 25 yards or fewer in all but two games this season, but we have seen him find the end zone four times over the final seven games of the year to give him a pulse as a touchdown-chasing dart. Jennings is averaging 21.3 pass routes per game over those final seven games of the season.
George Kittle: Kittle was another player that had a quiet close to the season, catching eight passes for 60 yards total the final three games of the regular season. Many will suggest that Kittle’s blocking is what holds him back, but he ran a pass route on 86-of-99 team dropbacks in those games, opportunities just did not find him.
We have seen this before with Kittle. It is frustrating because we know he’s as talent as any tight end in the league. Prior to this most recent drought, Kittle was a tear where he posted games of 9-181-2, 13-151-1, and 6-93-0.
Dallas can be beaten by good tight end play. They ranked 22nd in yards allowed per target (7.7 yards) and were 17th in DVOA against the position.
Dalton Schultz: After a midseason drought, Schultz closed the season strong, catching 25 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns over the final four weeks of the season. Scoring twice in the season finale, Schultz matched Amari Cooper with a team-high eight touchdown receptions on the year.
With Blake Jarwin returning for the first time since Week 8, Schultz did see a significant reduction in playing time. Schultz ran a pass route on 62.1% of the dropbacks, his lowest rate in a game Since Week 3. In the eight games that Schultz played with Jarwin active, his route participation rate was 67.2% compared to 85.4% without Jarwin available. Schultz still carries more target claim than Jarwin and is a primary red zone option for the offense regardless, but it does sap some ceiling potential.
The 49ers allowed just 6.5 yards per target (eighth) to opposing tight ends but allowed a 72.2% catch rate (23rd) and a 6.7% touchdown rate (25th) to the position.
More Wid Card Fantasy breakdowns from The Worksheet: