49ers week 7 preview and prediction: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan hopes that a new starting QB will help guide the 49ers to their first win of 2017.

San Francisco 49ers fans knew that this season would be a purging of a combination of a frightful roster and bad contracts from the previous regime, and a commitment to youth and a rebuilding of the roster with the future in mind. With the benching of QB Brian Hoyer and the insertion of QB C.J. Beathard, the 49ers officially made their move to look towards the future. Whether these plans will yield success remains to be seen. The 49ers have yet to manifest progress on the field in the result of a win, and this season has left some fans hopeful about the future and others lugubrious.

When San Francisco and Dallas square off at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, the air will be saturated with uncertainty. For Dallas, they don’t know when or if the suspension of their All-Pro RB Ezekiel Elliot will be levied. Elliot recently had another injunction that blocked a six game personal conduct suspension. Amidst all of the confusion, Elliot will be available for the tilt against the 49ers.

After releasing All-Pro LB NaVorro Bowman last week, who subsequently opted to bolt for the Bay Area nemesis — the Oakland Raiders, the Niners will hand rookie LB Reuben Foster the keys to the defense.

After finally pulling the plug on the Brian Hoyer experiment and inserting rookie QB C.J. Beathard into the lineup, a once defunct 49ers offense looks to take a step forward. C.J. Beathard will get all the 1st team reps in practice and will have his crack at becoming the franchise’s “quarterback for the future.” Beathard has the opportunity to quell the chatter of the 49ers using the offseason to fill the position with either a free agent or a draft pick.

Dallas is coming off of a bye week and they will seek to keep pace in the NFC East with Philadelphia and Washington for division dominance. The 49ers are the best 0-6 team in NFL history and seek to rectify their woes with a win over Dallas.

San Francisco will attempt to defend Levi’s Stadium at 1:05 p.m. PT and can be watched on the FOX Network.

Essentials to win the game
In order for the Niners to emerge victorious, they must take advantage of a once formidable, and now fallible, offensive line. LT Tyron Smith remains arguably the best tackle in the game, but with the retirement of longtime staple at right tackle, Doug Free, and the free agency departure of starting left guard, Ronald Leary, the Cowboys now have chinks amidst their line. DL DeForest Buckner is quickly becoming one of the leagues best interior lineman. This game breeds an opportunity for Buckner to create problems for the Cowboys offensive line. Rookie DL Solomon Thomas has taken huge strides in defending the run. It can be argued that Thomas could supplant Arik Armstead, who is heading to the IR —again. Thanks, Trent! It appears that Armstead is just another Baalke draftee who failed to pan out in the league.

Rookie LB Reuben Foster is expected to return from an ankle sprain he suffered in Week 1 and fill the void that NaVorro Bowman left. In order for the 49ers to be successful, they have to contain and limit the amount of damage Ezekiel Elliot is able to enact. By limiting Elliot, San Francisco will force Dallas QB Dak Prescott to connect with receivers who are more than capable of torching the Niner’s secondary. Although Dallas WR Dez Bryant no longer imposes the same level of fear he once did earlier in his career, he remains a capable wideout that can ruin defensive gameplans. Dallas WR Cole Beasley is a shifty slot receiver that finds holes in zones and Terrance Williams is a deep threat with home run ability.

The 49ers are going to need their secondary to hold up against the Cowboy’s offense. If they can corral Elliot on early downs, and force Dallas to become one dimensional, the Niners can etch out a win.

The Dallas defense isn’t very stout and San Francisco should be able to consistently move the ball against them. It is imperative that the 49ers establish the run in order to control the clock. If the 49ers are unable to extend drives and eat up chunks of the clock, the Niners will be in for a long day. The Cowboys blueprint for victory has been to rely upon the running game to control time of possession and press teams into scoring quickly to keep up.

The San Francisco offensive line will need to give C.J. Beathard time to survey the field to find his receivers. WRs Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, and the Niner’s version of Cole Beasley —Trent Taylor— should all be able to inflict damage on a shaky Cowboy defense.

Possible downfalls to avoid
The 49ers cannot afford to put their rookie QB behind in down and distance. Failure to remain on schedule will put the Cowboys in prime position to commit to the run, kill the clock, and dictate the terms of the game. If the Niners find themselves down early, expect Cowboys defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, to dial up blitzes throughout the day to keep the young rookie uncomfortable and confused.

Player spotlight
49er LT Joe Staley has a tall task ahead keeping Cowboy DE Demarcus Lawrence from harassing C.J. Beathard. Staley, known to be a reliable blind-side protector, has had an up and down year. Staley needs to dominate this matchup if the Niners are to stand a chance.

San Francisco TE George Kittle has been highlighted more into the offense and expect more of that to continue on Sunday. Dallas LBs Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee will attempt to cover him, and Kittle should be able to beat them in coverage. Kittle’s issue, as has been the case with the rest of 49er pass catchers, has been drops. Kittle dropped two key passes last week. If the Niners stand to compete, Kittle’s hands have to prove to be reliable.

Game Projection
Carlos Hyde has seen his effectiveness diminish with each passing week. Hyde has proved to be a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield, but he is averaging 1.8 yards on 39 carries the past two games. RB Matt Brieda, who over the same time period as Hyde is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, will demand more of Hyde’s touches. Breida may get the lion’s share of the carries in this game and will end up outperforming Hyde.

Reuben Foster’s return to the field will be a much needed spark for the 49er defense. Foster will run through Ezekiel Elliot when given the opportunity. Foster and S Eric Reid will provide a much needed lift for the defense to keep them competitive.

Dallas will take advantage of a shaky 49ers defense and exploit San Francisco CBs Rashard Robinson, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Dontae Johnson. The Niners will spend much of the first half finding the right pairing to match up with the Dallas wideouts. Dak Prescott will connect with Bryant, Beasley and Williams and throw for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day as the Niners seek to limit the effectiveness of Ezekiel Elliot. Expect Elliot to end his day with 90 yards and a touchdown.

C.J. Beathard will put in his bid as quarterback for the future as he throws for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. Expect Beathard to make a rookie mistake that will result in an interception. Beathard will do enough to give the 49ers an opportunity to pull out their first victory at home.

This game is going to come down to the 49er secondary being able to make a play in crunch time.

The Niners currently sit as a 6 point underdog. San Francisco rekindled their passion for beating the spread and they sit at 4-2 ATS for the year. The Niners will continue to frustrate the bookies in Vegas and send Dallas home with a loss and improve their record to 1-6 in a 35-30 shootout.

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