Dallas Cowboys (12-5) vs San Francisco 49ers (10-7)

Sunday, January 16, 2022 at 4:30 pm

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Since 1980, NFL Wild-Card Round favorites that won six or fewer games the previous season are a money-burning 3-15-1 ATS following a game in which they beat the point spread by ten or more points, including 1-9 SU and 0-9-1 ATS when favored by three or fewer points.  NFL playoff underdogs that missed the postseason the previous year (San Francisco) are 20-10 ATS (67%) over the last decade.  No. 3 seeds (Dallas) priced between +3 and -3 have lost ten straight Wild Card games (1-9 ATS), averaging just 13.4 points per game in the process.  Wild Card road teams are a profitable 14-6 SU and 15-5 ATS over the last four seasons, while NFC underdogs are 12-4-1 ATS in their last seventeen wild-card games.   Interestingly, wild-card home teams playing on Sundays are just 14-17 SU and 11-19-1 ATS; Saturday home teams are 20-13 SU and 19-13-1 ATS.  NFC road teams are 12-8 SU and 14-5-1 ATS in Sunday wild-card games.  Since 2007, teams that won more regular-season games (Dallas) are just 21-25 SU and 17-28-1 in the Wild-Card Round.

Regular Season Statistical Trends Favoring San Francisco

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NFL wild-card teams averaging more passing yards per attempt are 30-14 SU and 25-18-1 ATS over the last thirteen seasons.  NFL wild-card teams allowing fewer rushing yards per attempt are 29-24 SU and 30-22-1 ATS over that span  Teams that allowed fewer yards overall are an impressive 32-22 SU and 32-21-1 ATS in the Wild-Card Round, including 5-1 SU and ATS last season.  

The Ultimate X-Factor - Deebo Samuel

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan's decision to start deploying WR/RB Deebo Samuel out of the backfield in Week Ten of the regular season paid immediate dividends.  Since that date, Samuel tied for the league high with 11 touchdowns and ranked fourth in yards from scrimmage (1,006).  Samuel set the all-time record for rushing value by a wide receiver in Football Outsiders' DYAR metric (6.2 yards per carry) and eclipsed 30 rushing yards in six of his past eight games. The explosive playmaker averaged 11 opportunities and 110.3 yards per game this season, averaging an impressive 48 yards after the catch per game.  

The Cowboys' Suspect Secondary

Dallas ranks 26th in the NFL in yards allowed to opposing wide receivers at nearly nine yards per play.  The Cowboys' secondary is also yielding 6.3 yards after catch per reception this season, second-most in the NFL.  Samuel leads the league in gaining those yards, averaging ten yards per reception after the catch.  Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs has given up over 950 receiving yards to opposing wide receivers this season, the most a cornerback has allowed in sixteen years.  According to Pro Football Focus, Diggs ranks 90th out of 91 cornerbacks with 300-plus coverage snaps in yards allowed per target. 

Samuel isn't the only player primed to have a big day on Sunday.  Dallas ranks 17th in Success Rate against tight ends, allowing 56% of plays grade out as successful.  San Francisco tight end George Kittle will likely join Samuel as another popular weapon of choice for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo is the league's best quarterback against Cover 3, completing 76% of his pass attempts, which is significant in that the Cowboys play Cover 3 almost 50% of the time.  The 49ers also rank first in red zone conversion rate.

Finally, Alex Kemp will be the game's referee, and his regular-season crew ranked No. 8 in the NFL with an average of 14.4 flags thrown per game.  Dallas was the league's most penalized team with 153 flags - ten more than the next-closest team.  With Dallas standing at 3-10 SU and ATS in the playoffs since 1997, including 1-6 ATS as a favorite, grab the points with the 49ers and invest with confidence.

More Technical Nuggets: Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy is just 3-11 SU and 6-8-1 ATS versus .501 or greater NFC West opposition, including 0-3 SU and ATS when laying fewer than seven points.  San Francisco is 8-1 SU and 5-2-2 ATS in its last nine wild-card games, while Shanahan is a 58% ATS winning proposition as an underdog in his career.  

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Jeff’s Pick San Francisco 49ers: +3 -105

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