The Oakland Raiders missed a key opportunity to place themselves right in the thick of the AFC playoff race last week. Now they need to quickly regroup if they plan on making a late season push to sneak in as they take on the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Matt McGloin followed up a sensational performance in his first start, with a more average one in his second outing. While he started slow, he did end well and his touchdown throw to Marcel Reece with six minutes remaining was a thing of beauty. Rashad Jennings continued his string of good rushing performances as he gained 73 yards on only 16 carries.
Against the Cowboys the Raiders face a defense that gives up the most yards in the league, but is also among the league leaders in forcing turnovers. McGloin will have to be careful with his decisions especially if Sean Lee is on the field as he is among the league leader in interceptions despite being a linebacker. The return of Jason Hatcher gives their defensive line a much needed boost and he recorded both of the team’s sacks in last week’s victory over the Giants.
The best place to attack the Cowboys is in their secondary. Their safeties are among the league’s worst and outside of CB Brandon Carr, the secondary, in general, lacks playmakers. Rod Streater will have to take advantage and TE Mychal Rivera could be huge if he is able to attack the seams and take advantage of the Cowboy safeties.
Defensively, the Raiders will be in for a challenge as very few teams possess the collection of skill players the Cowboys have. Tony Romo has arguably had his best season of his career and has a number of weapons in Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Cole Beasley. DeMarco Murray is also effective on the ground when the Cowboys decide to run the ball, but they do most of their damage through the air.
The secondary will be under immense pressure in this game and Charles Woodson in particular will have to be all over the field to try and contain this aerial attack. Mike Jenkins, the former Cowboy, will be looking to make a statement against his former team and he will have the opportunity as the Cowboys are sure to throw the ball all over the field.
This game is crucial for both teams. The Raiders need this win if they have any plans of making a playoff push and the Cowboys are trying to hold on to the lead in the NFC East. If the Raiders defense is unable to contain the cowboys offense, the Raiders don’t have the firepower to keep up in a shootout. If the defense keeps it close, it will be up to McGloin to make a play late to get the Raiders a victory.