NFL Free Pick & Prediction Raiders vs. Cowboys
Oakland Raiders (4-7) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-5) 11/28- 4:30PM EST
Line: DAL -9.5
What’s a Thanksgiving Day without “Americas Team” on television? And this time against the hated Oakland Raiders and their following… “Raider Nation” as we like to call them. Can the Dallas Cowboys sustain the momentum they earned over their division rival New York Giants on Sunday when they won with a 24-21 dramatic last second victory?
Dallas is back above the .500 mark and tied atop the who-ever-wants-it NFC East, and going in on Thursday against a team people love to hate, the Cowboys seem to have a good chance to keep making strides in a division that has become a two-team race now between them and the Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) when they host an Oakland Raiders team that has struggled on the road and to be quite honest… has struggled period.
The Cowboys are now two weeks removed and have seemed to recover from a 49-17 thrashing and embarrassing loss to the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 10. Dallas (6-5) in coming off their bye week, pulled out a 24-21 road victory Sunday over a New York Giants team which had won four straight and seemed poised to get back into a what has been weak NFC East division this year. The Cowboys blew a 15-point lead in the second half but Tony Romo proved he can bring a team back as he led the offense downfield to set up Dan Bailey on 35-yard field goal as time expired.
“The teams that are able to put that one (bad loss) aside and come back and go win the next game and put their best foot forward, those are the ones that play at the end of the year,” coach Jason Garrett told the Cowboys’ official website.
“It’s a long season. Games go a lot of different ways over the course of 16 games. You’ve just got to keep going.”
It’s been an up and down year for the Cowboys who in every game after they have won to climb above .500, lost the next, which have all been on the road.
Home, like most teams is where they have success as they are averaging an NFC-high 34.6 points at home this season while going 4-1.
“You move on to the next one,” said tight end Jason Witten, who had two touchdown receptions Sunday. “That was a big win, but they just get bigger. For our football team, that’s what it’s all about is focusing on this and saying, ‘We’re one game above .500, we’ve got a long way to go.’ Get to 7-5, and that’s the only thing we can think about right now.”
The Cowboy’s defense has been anything but good this year, but they did enough to give Tony Romo the opportunity to engineer a pair of lengthy final drives in each of Dallas’ last two victories over the Vikings and Giants.
Against Minnesota, Romo capped a nine-play, 90-yard drive with a 7-yard TD pass to DwayneHarris with 35 seconds left in a 27-23 home win over the Vikings on Nov. 3. Then, this past Sunday against the Giants, Romo led the Cowboys 64 yards on 14 plays over the final 4:45 to set up Bailey’s winner and all but knock the Giants out from any further playoff talks.
“I think you either feel comfortable in those situations or you don’t,” said Romo, whose 107.1 passer rating in the fourth quarter ranks second among 28 quarterbacks with at least 60 attempts.
“Just through all the experiences and all the times you’ve put yourself in that position as a team, and we feel good.”
With Cowboys lacking a running attack where they rank 29th averaging only 79.7 rushing yards per game, having DeMarco Murray back the last two games running the ball has given them a shot in the arm. Murray ran for 107 yards on Sunday versus the Giants and has averaged 5.8 yards per carry while recording 175 yards with a touchdown in the last two games, which is good news leading into Thursday’s game against the Raiders.
Other then the reliable Witten, Romo will have receivers Dez Bryant and Myles Austin as offensive weapons for his liking which will put plenty of pressure on the Raiders’ secondary.
The Raiders (4-7) defense has allowed an average of 122.6 yards on the ground while going 1-4 away from home and going into Houston had dropped eight straight road games before pulling out a 28-23 victory over a Texans team that is just having a nightmare of a season and is now stuck in a nine-game losing streak.
On Sunday, the Oakland defense failed them again at then end. They held Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to 73 yards on 20 carries, but when it counted in the final minutes, let the Titans go 80 yards on 14 plays in 6 minutes to score a touchdown with 10 seconds left and hand the Raiders a 23-19 home defeat.
“We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and wallow in self-pity,” said coach Dennis Allen, whose team has suffered three four-point defeats this season.
“We’re extremely disappointed in the loss, but we’ve got a game to play, and we’ve got to get ourselves ready to play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and that’s really where the majority of our focus has turned to now.”
For me personally, it was a typical Raider loss for a team that has failed to make the playoffs, let alone finish at .500 since their Super Bowl loss in the 2002 season. Ill advised penalties and being undisciplined has been the signature calling card for as long as I can remember for the Raiders’ franchise.
With Dallas going in as a big (minus) -9.5 point favorite at home, not many people who bet the spread are giving the Raiders a chance on the road… myself included, but let’s see how much the spread changes leading up to kickoff which you can check right here through Wonder Punter.
Expect Raider rookie Matt McGloin to make his third straight start on Thursday as he has thrown for four touchdowns and one interception in two games since Terrelle Pryor sprained his knee in a loss to the Giants. Pryor was given the green-light to play last week but served as the backup, and reports indicate will be watching from the sidelines again this week.
There is some good news for the Raiders however, that they could have running back Darren McFadden back in action this week after he missed the last three games with a hamstring injury. Backup Rashad Jennings has filled in well in place of McFadden averaging 5.7 yards per carry and 103.3 per game in his last four Raider starts.
One Raider question mark is it’s uncertain if McGloin will have Denarius Moore as a throwing option as he is still battling a shoulder injury and may miss his second straight contest.
The Raiders at 4-7 sit in last place in the AFC West.
Dallas has some players in question as well with linebacker Sean Lee possibly missing his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury. The same injury could force cornerback Morris Claiborne to sit out as well. Not good news for a defense that has failed to live up to expectations this season so far.
The Cowboys have enjoyed success on Thanksgiving where they are 28-16 and one tie. Oakland fell to 3-3 on turkey day with a 24-7 loss at Dallas in 2009. In that matchup, Romo threw for 309 yards with two touchdowns and Witten caught five balls for 107 to help the Cowboys’ snapped a three-game skid against the Silver and Black.
Both the Cowboys and Raiders have found ways to lose games this year, and as much as I would like to think the Raiders will find a way to surprise me and most of America, my prediction is to go with Dallas at home. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to this one.
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter