The Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders will meet this coming Thursday in the annual Thanksgiving Day football games. Fans will get treated to the usual Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers game in the first stanza of games then the afternoon belongs to the boys in blue, literally. Since the days of the Cotton Bowl, Dallas will wear their blue “away” uniforms at home. NFL guidelines are that teams cannot wear an alternate helmet because of the league’s awareness of concussions. Team sources say don’t discount the traditional throwbacks will be shelved. It is assumed they will show that the white helmets are properly broken in to the league. The concern from the NFL’s standpoint is that they want helmets that are properly broken in for the sake of player’s safety.
The Cowboys and Raiders have met a grand total 10 times during the regular season with their first meeting in 1972 as Dallas won, 16-10. The two teams meet annually during the preseason because of the fact that both teams hold training camps in close proximity to each other. Both teams have their camps in California with Dallas in Oxnard, while the Raiders have theirs in Napa Valley.
Thursdays marks the third start for Oakland quarterback Matt McGloin. McGloin has been a backup until Terrelle Pryor injured his knee a few weeks ago. He has been a bright spot to this Raiders squad as he is following in the same footsteps as another quarterback, Tony Romo. Like Romo, McGloin was undrafted and had to wait for his time at the spotlight. The Penn State alumni became only the 4th quarterback in NFL history to throw 3 touchdowns with no interceptions in their first start. So far in his young career, he has thrown for 544 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. Romo pulled out another come-from-behind victory setting up the last drive for a Dan Bailey game-winning field goal last week against the New York Giants. Romo has 2,915 yards for the season with 23 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Behind both quarterbacks have lackluster running games behind them as the Raider ‘backs are a combined 905 yards. Rashad Jennings has emerged ahead of Darren McFadden. Jennings has been gaining better on the ground with 5.1 yards per carry as compared to McFadden’s 3.6. Demarco Murray has 634 yards with 5.1 yards per carry average and has been the main cog that includes Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle. The three-headed monster of a running game still crawls with a whimper with 79.7 yards per game rushing average. The Raiders are more balanced due to Pryor’s running ability under center but without him, they will probably focus mainly on Jennings and McFadden as well as relying on the young arm of McGloin. The Raiders average 140.6 rushing yards per game but also throw the ball on average, 193.1 yards. Dallas has been relying heavily on the pass as Romo is averaging 246.5 passing yards per game. Both teams are fairly equal when it comes to total yards per game with the Raiders having the 7 yard edge, 333-326 yards per game. Dallas does dominate on average points per game with an 8 point advantage.
Defensively, the Raiders are ranked in the middle of the pack at 17th in the league. Dallas has worked themselves to the bottom of the pile at 32nd. Allowing 258 passing yards per game, the Raiders defensive backfield hasn’t lit up the stats boards as they are ranked 25th in the NFL for passing yards per game. Dallas is having a terrible time holding the passing yards at average of 298 yards per game and ranked 31st. Dallas has had a hard time holding the run as well. The Cowboys have allowed 133.6 yards per game, while the Raiders are doing much better being ranked 8th and allowing 99.1 yards rushing per game. Stats are stats though. The most important is the points. The Raiders allow 24.5 while Dallas allows 25.4 points per game.
The Raiders on paper look like the team to win this game but the problem that Oakland has is finishing a game. Their 4-7 record isn’t indicative of their stats. Dallas suffers from the dreaded Jekyll and Hyde syndrome being their own worst enemy at times. The Cowboys haven’t had a winning streak since weeks 6 and 7 when they defeated the Washington Redskins then the Philadelphia Eagles. With having to travel to the Chicago Bears next week then hosting the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys might want to win this game. The Bears are tied for first place at 6-5 with the Detroit Lions while the Packers are 5-5-1. The Cowboys can realistically afford 2 losses and if they are to lose, I would rather it be against the Packers and Bears. Going forward, Dallas can’t lose any division games if they end up in a first place tie with Philly. With Nick Foles named the Eagles starting quarterback, they will probably lose a couple themselves with having to play the Bears, the Lions, and the Minnesota Vikings. They should be able to beat the Arizona Cardinals.
With the playoffs coming around the corner, every game has become pretty much a strategy of what we can afford to win or lose since Dallas can’t decide who they want to be from week to week. Romo has a solid record in the month of November but December has been a problem in the past. Although Romo has been throwing 18 touchdowns and 1 interception in the month of December since 2009, it still doesn’t win games. Stats are great but points make the final difference. With our defense being at the bottom of the barrel, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin needs to light a fire under the squad. The old saying goes, “Offense wins games but defense wins championships”.
With that being said, Dallas will have another close game with the Raiders. Sean Lee wants to come back to this game but honestly, I don’t see that happening. A hamstring injury isn’t something to rush back from. Dallas will have to rely on Bruce Carter and DeVonte Holloman to step up their tackling against the run. It was pretty abysmal last week as the Giants ran past the defensive line. Orlando Scandrick had himself a good game last week but we saw Morris Claiborne leave with a hamstring injury. His return to this game isn’t expected.
The bottom line, Cowboys will win this game 27-24 putting us once again at the edge of our seats.