With only one more game remaining until running back Ezekiel Elliott returns from suspension, can the Dallas Cowboys get another win?
The Dallas Cowboys have played a couple tough games since losing their superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott to suspension. But Sunday night’s game against the Oakland Raiders could be their toughest yet.
Ever since the NFL schedule was released back in April, this was a game most Cowboys fans had circled due to the preseason expectations for both teams.
The Cowboys and the Raiders were looked at as potential Super Bowl contenders based on their 2016 seasons. And with a December matchup on the schedule, what more could we have asked for? However, back in April, nobody expected the ramifications to be what they currently are going into this pivotal matchup.
While both teams are loaded with young talent and seem to be set up nicely for years to come, both teams have had up and down seasons where they have failed to meet preseason expectations. Here we are in December with the regular season soon coming to an end and both teams are fighting to keep playoff hopes alive.
The Cowboys need to win out just to have a prayer at the postseason and will still need additional help on top of that. The Raiders currently sit just one game out of the lead in the AFC West and will also need some additional help to make the postseason.
More from The Landry Hat
- 3 ways Cowboys’ Dak Prescott can have a bounce-back season in 2023
- Cowboys News: Dallas sets pre-draft visit with potential Dalton Schultz upgrade
- NFL executives heaping praise on offseason is uncharted territory for Cowboys
- 3 free agent signings from NFC East rivals that left Cowboys fans laughing
- Cowboys News: Brandin Cooks sends flattering message to CeeDee Lamb, Stephon Gilmore
While games like Atlanta and Philadelphia looked difficult on paper and ended up being historically bad games for the Cowboys, their upcoming game against the Raiders could be their toughest game to date without Elliott due to the desperation of both teams.
This game will be loaded with great matchups on both sides of the ball. For the Cowboys on offense, they have to be focused on protecting quarterback Dak Prescott with defensive end Khalil Mack lining up against right tackle La’el Collins. Collins has played extremely well over the
last couple weeks considering he hasn’t been practicing throughout the past couple weeks dealing with back issues.
The Cowboys will also have some questions to answer this game when it comes to their running back situation. While Alfred Morris is expected to get the start, there is growing speculation that Rod Smith could get more involved in the offense after last weeks performance against the Giants. Smith can bring more to the offense and is more aligned with how offensive coordinator Scott Linehan likes to call plays, specifically with stretch run plays and screen passes out of the backfield.
The Cowboys defense will certainly have their hands full with the loaded Raiders offense. While the Raiders offensive unit has been inconsistent most of the year, it has the potential and talent to explode at any moment. Even with wide receiver Amari Cooper being ruled out for Sunday night’s game, there is still a plethora of weapons for quarterback Derek Carr including wide receiver Michael Crabtree, tight end Jared Cook, and running back Marshawn Lynch.
The Cowboys young secondary will be tested once again with cornerback Orlando Scandrick being ruled out again this week. The pass rush will also be critical for the Cowboys in this game with the Raiders possessing one of the most talented offensive lines in the league and defensive tackle David Irving missing his second consecutive game with concussion symptoms. Who will step up with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence guaranteed to generate a lot of attention.
In a game loaded with talent and teams desperate to stay alive for the postseason, could Sunday night’s game against the Raiders be the most difficult test since losing Elliott to suspension? If the Cowboys can escape Oakland with a win, optimism will have to be high with Elliott returning the following week against the Seattle Seahawks.