Cowboys vs. Raiders: Matchup history, players to watch and gut prediction

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Cowboys vs. Raiders: Gut prediction

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 31, Las Vegas Raiders 20

The Raiders have given up the fourth-most rushing yards this season and seventh-most yards per carry. The Raiders have conceded the sixth-lowest amount of passing yards and are the best defense in the league in yards per reception.

So, just pound the rock, Kellen.

The run game is an area the Cowboys simply have to win and there really isn’t an excuse for it. We saw an offensive line struggle mightily against the Chiefs in pass protection, and the Raiders have even more sacks than them.

Running the ball has to be a top priority. With O-lineman Tyron Smith shaping up to be back in the lineup, the Cowboys need to run downhill and make life easier on their lineman.  This is a situation Dallas shouldn’t overthink. Go at the Raiders’ weakness.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott may be a little banged up from what appeared to be an ankle injury last Sunday, but he came back in the game showing minimal ill-effect. One has to imagine the Cowboys give him quite a bit of rest on a short week and have him suit up Thursday feeling fresh.

Fellow running back Tony Pollard should continue to see an increased workload due to Elliott dealing with the ankle, and a game plan that should feature a heavy downhill attack.

The Cowboys need to avoid getting too cute, offensively. You run the ball well, they don’t defend the run well. You are without one, possibly two, of your top receivers, and they defend the pass well.

Trust your workhorses and lean on the Raiders up front.

Defensively, the Cowboys should come in feeling confident as ever. Any time a defense can hold quarterback Patrick Mahomes from finding the end zone while turning him over twice, you can bet there is some confidence brewing.

To be honest, let’s not change much of the game plan going into this week. Keep linebacker Micah Parsons involved in the pass-rush scheme and let him be an athlete. We saw him constantly flustering Mahomes, and he can do even more of that against Derek Carr who is less mobile and less likely to have those huge plays when breaking contain.

Carr is completing 68 percent of his passes and is already over 3,000 yards with 16 touchdowns. He does also have nine interceptions, though. With the Raiders unsure of Josh Jacobs ability or how healthy he will be on a short week after being inactive on Sunday, the Raiders may have to rely on Carr’s arm to move the ball.

The Cowboys would be well-suited to put Carr in a position to win the game. He will get a few, he’s not a bad quarterback, but the longer he is forced to make play after play, the bigger the chances of the Dallas secondary getting its hands on the ball.

The Cowboys need this win to keep pace in the NFC, and even though they are undermanned in some areas, they just find a way. They come back and show they have some guts in this one. It may not be pretty, or even all that entertaining at times, but when you need a win you take it any way you can.

The Cowboys should send us into a long weekend feeling stuffed with turkey and giving them quite a bit of thanks for a joyous weekend.

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