Originally published on Silver & Black Report on Nov. 26, 2013
The Raiders (4-7) head to Dallas to take on the Cowboys (6-5) in Jerry's World, coming off a final minute loss to the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.
Head coach Dennis Allen's team hopes to turn things around quickly as they face the Cowboys on a short week on Thanksgiving Day.
The matchup will be Oakland's seventh time playing on Thanksgiving, currently holding a 3-3 record after falling 24-7 to the Cowboys in their last Thanksgiving Day matchup in 2009.
Dallas enters the week coming off a big road win against the New York Giants, putting them in a tie for the NFC East lead with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Oakland's secondary faces a tough matchup with Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense which is ranked fifth in the NFL in points per game (27.4). Romo has led the offense with a passing game that is averaging 248.0 yards per game and has thrown 26 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
There's no doubt that the Raiders' banged-up secondary will have to find a way to contain explosive wide receiver Dez Bryant if they want a shot at limiting the Cowboys offense. Bryant currently leads the Cowboys with 52 receptions, 749 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
The Raiders secondary is banged up with rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden already on the injured reserve and former Cowboys first-round pick and now Raiders corner Mike Jenkins leaving Sunday's game with a concussion. The shorter week will make it more difficult for Jenkins to recover from his concussion in time, though Jenkins did return to practice on Monday in a limited capacity.
Should Jenkins be unable to suit up, the Raiders will likely go with Tracy Porter, Phillip Adams and Chimdi Chekwa as their three go-to corners, just as they did after Jenkins' departure Sunday. Should Jenkins return, it will likely be him and Porter as the two starting corners, as was the case to begin the game Sunday.
The Raiders defense must also find a way to provide more pressure on Romo than they were able to on Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Raiders were only able to accumulate one sack on Fitspatrick despite applying pressure numerous times, as Fitzpatrick was able to escape and scramble consistently. Romo is no different as he possesses good mobility and the ability to scramble for a gain or merely to keep the play alive.
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is coming off a strong performance, rushing for 86 yards on just 14 carries (6.14 yards per carry). The Raiders are allowing just 99.1 rushing yards per game, ranked 8th in the NFL. The Raiders defense will need to contain Murray in an effort to prevent any play-action plays and help alleviate the secondary.
On offense, Allen has decided to give undrafted rookie Matt McGloin his third start. McGloin played a solid game against the Titans, finishing 19/32 for 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
McGloin will face an easier secondary this week as the Cowboys defense is ranked 31st against the pass, giving up 298.5 yards per game. Things should be even easier with Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne expected to be out with a hamstring injury. Backup corner Orlando Scandrick is expected to start in his place.
Wide receiver Rod Streater will be asked to step up as the Raiders look as if they'll be without Denarius Moore for the second-straight week, who remains out of practice with a shoulder injury. McGloin and Streater appear to have a strong chemistry as Streater has 11 receptions for 177 yards and one touchdown in McGloin's two starts.
Former wide receiver and now fullback Marcel Reece should be involved in the offense more with Moore remaining sidelined. Reece finished last game with four receptions for 44 yards and one touchdown. Reece possesses great speed as a former wide receiver in college and is mismatch in favor of the offense should any linebacker be in charge of covering him.
Running back Rashad Jennings should be licking his lips at the opportunity to go against a Cowboys defense that defends the run nearly as poorly as they do the pass. The Cowboys defense is allowing 133.6 yards per game, 30th in the NFL. Jennings is averagine 103.7 rushing yards per game while starting for the injured Darren McFadden.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson may get McFadden back this week, as he has returned to the practice field under a limited capacity for the first time since injuring his hamstring in week nine. Though it is unknown what McFadden's role will be, Olson could use the speedy back at times to spell Jennings and work him back into the offense slowly until his hamstring is 100 percent good to go.
Pryor, who has been rehabbing a sprained MCl, could also be worked back into the offense. Allen has stated that they have a special package of plays for Pryor and that it is possible he could come into the game and spell McGloin as an added offensive weapon.
Often overlooked yet still important, the Raiders special teams needs to make sure they are able to get points when they can. This means Sebastian Janikowski needs to convert on field goal attempts and get the three points on the board. Janikowski has missed seven field goals on the year (15/22), including two costly ones Sunday that could have been the difference between a win and the loss. Dallas scores the fifth-most points in the league, making points crucial for the Raiders offense.
The Raiders and Cowboys met in week one of preseason, with the Raiders coming away victorious 19-17. With it being the first week of preseason, starters played very little, though Romo did finish 6/8 for 88 yards.
Oakland will remain on the road and take on the New York Jets next Sunday.
MILESTONES TO WATCH FOR:
DE Lamarr Houston
• Needs three sacks to enter the top 20 in Raiders team history.
K Sebastian Janikowski
• Has now converted on 152-consecutive PAT attempts.
• Needs just 42 points to reach 1,500 for his career.
RB Rashad Jennings
• Has already surpassed his career-high with 553 rushing yards on the year.
• Has already surpassed his career-high with 790 total yards on the year.
RB Darren McFadden
• Needs 315 rushing yards to eclipse 4,000 yards for his career.
• Needs 470 receiving yards to eclipse 1,500 yards for his career.
• Needs one rushing TD to move into sole posession of ninth place on the franchise’s
career list, and two to tie No. 8 Charlie Smith (24, 1968-74). McFadden enters the
game with 22.
WR Denarius Moore
• Needs 72 receiving yards to reach 2,000 for his career.
QB Terrelle Pryor
• Is currently first amongst all quarterbacks with 504 rushing yards. Pryor could
eclipse the Raiders’ single-season mark of rushing yards by a quarterback with just
26 more yards. Rich Gannon set the mark in 2000 with 529.
WR Rod Streater
• Needs 316 receiving yards to reach 1,500 for his career.
S Charles Woodson
• Needs five interceptions to tie Ed Reed for first on the interceptions list among all
active players with 61.
• Needs one INT-TD to pass Rod Woodson for first on the all-time list with 12.
• Needs one defensive touchdown to pass Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for the
most defensive touchdowns in NFL history with 13.