NFL PREVIEWS |

Preview: 49ers at Cowboys


Although their offense slumbered through much of the preseason, Colin Kaepernick expects the San Francisco 49ers to wake up just in time when they open the 2014 season against the host Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The electric Kaepernick guided the 49ers to three consecutive NFC championship games - and was a tipped pass by Seattle's Richard Sherman removed from a second Super Bowl appearance in that stretch. Kaepernick looks to utilize both his rocket-launcher arm and gazelle-like legs as he tries to exploit a defense that yielded a league-worst 415.3 yards per contest in 2013.

San Francisco's bread and butter remains its ground game, and veteran Frank Gore continued to buck the running backs' version of Father Time by recording his franchise-best seventh 1,000-yard season last season. The 31-year-old could see sizable holes left by Dallas' offseason departures of DeMarcus Ware (Denver) and Jason Hatcher (Washington) as well as the absence of All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee (season-ending ACL injury). The glaring spotlight aside, the Cowboys have been the definition of mediocre with successive 8-8 records in each of the last three seasons.

TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: 49ers -4.5. O/U: 51.5

ABOUT THE 49ERS (2013: 12-4, 2nd NFC West): While Dallas has its own issues on defense, San Francisco will be without Aldon Smith as he serves a nine-game suspension for violations of the league's substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald's availability is in jeopardy after he was arrested over an alleged domestic-violence incident last Sunday, but coach Jim Harbaugh stressed that due process needed to be heeded before any potential discipline takes place. As for positives, Pro Bowl linebackers Ahmad Brooks (career-best 8.5 sacks) and Patrick Willis (104 tackles) are more than capable of picking up the slack.

ABOUT THE COWBOYS (2013: 8-8, 2nd NFC East): The much-maligned Tony Romo quieted (some?) critics by tossing 31 touchdown passes for the second time in three seasons, and the veteran doesn't see any cause for alarm following offseason back surgery. Injuries are nothing new for Romo, who overcame a broken rib against San Francisco in 2011 to throw for 345 yards and two touchdowns in Dallas' 27-24 overtime victory. Trusted target Dez Bryant (93 catches, 13 TDs) has seen his reception and touchdown totals increase in each of his four seasons in the league.

EXTRA POINTS

1. San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree is nursing a calf injury after being sidelined for over two weeks with a hamstring ailment.

2. Dallas Pro Bowl RB DeMarco Murray rushed for a career-best 1,121 yards last season and accumulated 10 total TDs (nine rushing, one receiving).

3. The 49ers bolstered their receiving ranks in May by acquiring three-time 1,000-yard WR Stevie Johnson from Buffalo for a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick.

PREDICTION: 49ers 31, Cowboys 24

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AT&T Stadium
Arlington, Texas, USA.
Capacity: 80,000

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San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys

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Last Injuries

Dallas Cowboys

  • Chidobe Awuzie

    Hamstring
    day-to-day | questionable

    Awuzie departed the previous game with a hamstring injury, and it remains to be seen if he will be active Week 3 versus the Seahawks.

  • Tyron Smith

    Neck
    day-to-day | questionable

    Smith missed the last game with a neck injury, and it is unknown if he will line up against the Seahawks in Week 3.

  • Anthony Brown

    Ribs
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Brown has been moved to the injured reserve list, and it has yet to be established when he will return to the fold.

  • Cameron Erving

    Knee
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Erving will miss an undetermined length of time while on the injured reserve list due to a sprained MCL in his left knee.

  • Blake Jarwin

    Knee
    I-R | I-R

    Jarwin has hit the injured reserve list after tearing his right ACL.

  • Luke Gifford

    Hamstring
    Prob Sun | probable

    Gifford sat out the previous game with a hamstring injury, but he is projected to suit up against the Falcons on Sunday.

  • Aldon Smith

    Teeth
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Smith is ailing from a tooth issue, and it is unclear if he will be in Sunday's lineup versus the Falcons.

  • Jourdan Lewis

    Ankle
    Prob Sun | probable

    Lewis missed the last game with a left ankle injury, but he is likely to play Sunday against the Falcons.

San Francisco 49ers

  • Jason Verrett

    Hamstring
    day-to-day | questionable

    Verrett has been held out of the past two games due to a hamstring injury, and it is unclear if he will take the field against the Giants in Week 3.

  • George Kittle

    Knee
    day-to-day | probable

    Kittle missed the last game due to a knee sprain, but he is likely to take part in Week 3 versus the Giants.

  • Richard Sherman

    Calf
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Sherman has been assigned to the injured reserve list with a calf injury, and team officials have yet to provide an exact return date.

  • Solomon Thomas

    Knee
    day-to-day | questionable

    Thomas left the last game with a knee injury, and his status against the Giants during Week 3 is in question.

  • Raheem Mostert

    Knee
    day-to-day | questionable

    Mostert was removed from the previous game with a mild sprain of the MCL in his knee, and it is unknown if he will play against the Giants in Week 3.

  • Tevin Coleman

    Knee
    day-to-day | questionable

    Coleman departed the last game due to a knee injury, and it remains to be seen if he will be active Week 3 versus the Giants.

  • Dee Ford

    Neck
    day-to-day | questionable

    Ford sat out the previous game with a neck injury, and it is unknown if he will be ready for Week 3 against the Giants.

  • Richie James

    Hamstring
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    James has been assigned to the injured reserve list due to a hamstring injury, and there is no timetable for return.