It goes without saying that both the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders want to walk away with a win today, but for differing reasons. Dak Prescott and his stable of offensive weapons are coming off of a second poor showing in three weeks after scoring no touchdowns in their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and although they're still sitting atop the NFC East with a 7-3 record, added losses will begin lessening the odds of them making a move for the No. 1 seed in the conference. Derek Carr, contrarily, isn't thinking about top seeding, and instead has his fury aimed at a three-game losing streak that threatens to take the Raiders out of the AFC playoff picture entirely.
There is much to play for on both sidelines, and pride is also a large part of it, as a "pissed off" Prescott readies to host an equally angry Carr at AT&T Stadium -- where the Cowboys are 7-point favorites, via Caesars Sportsbook. The two teams have faced off only 12 times in the history of the league, splitting the series 6-6, and it's impossible to forget the last time they met, unless index cards and a fumble out of bounds don't ring a bell for you.
If you know, you know.
Will the Raiders pull the needed upset to put their train back on the tracks of a very controversial season marred with off-the-field distractions, or will the Cowboys take out their loss to the Chiefs on the Raiders in the same fashion in which they did the Atlanta Falcons after being embarrassed by the Denver Broncos one week earlier?
Hold onto your turkey and stuffing, because this one might get intense.
How to watch
Without Tyron Smith on Prescott's blindside, the Chiefs teed off on the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback to the tune of eight hits and five sacks. The Raiders pass rush is much more formidable than what the Chiefs had shown prior to Sunday, and the importance of his presence cannot be overstated. With the perennial All-Pro back in uniform, things settle down in a major way on the left side of the Cowboys offensive line, including Connor McGovern in what will be only his second start at left guard. That will not only help Prescott remain upright and focused on making throws downfield, but it also ensures lanes will be carved for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the run game -- applying that much more pressure on a Raiders secondary that has struggled to take the ball away and is part of a defensive unit ranked 25th in points allowed this season (26.2 average).
The biggest question mark for the Cowboys offense is the status of CeeDee Lamb, who suffered a concussion on Sunday against the Chiefs and is fighting an uphill battle to be available against the Raiders. Already without four-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper -- who remains in COVID-19 protocol -- missing Lamb as well would be a devastating blow to what offensive coordinator Kellen Moore wants to do, but (stay tuned). If he's sidelined as well, the Raiders secondary might have an easier go against Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Noah Brown, who have both shown they can step up and play big but who are also coming off of a game on Sunday that saw them drop two critical passes a piece.
One thing is certain and that's the fact Carr will need help from his defense to stand a chance in Arlington. Las Vegas has now allowed more than 20 points in all but one of their 10 games, at least 27 in five of them and a combined 73 in their last two. If Prescott and Co. -- who dropped 43 on the Falcons before taking their foot off of the accelerator and average 29.3 points per game (3rd in the NFL) -- can get going early, Carr is going to be in trouble. The more one-dimensional the Raiders become, even with the addition of DeSean Jackson, the more likely Carr will be introduced to the takeaway machine that is the Cowboys defense, be it by interceptions, fumbles or both, and rookie sensation Micah Parsons is looking to add to his robust tally of eight sacks.
Additionally, the fact the Raiders offense averages only 22.3 points per game doesn't help their case.
The best chance for the Raiders is to see Maxx Crosby lead the charge in a big way defensively to help ground the Cowboys offense, allowing Carr to operate with the threat of a running game to back him up. This is a winnable game for the Raiders, but they're going to have morph into a heavyweight contender to knock out Dallas' teeth and steal it, because the Cowboys have another bad taste in their collective mouth; and we've seen what happens this season when the sour interrupts their sweet.
There are several to watch in this game, but none bigger than Prescott versus the Raiders secondary. Coming off of another poor showing -- again, his second in only three games -- and back for some home cooking at AT&T Stadium, Prescott will be looking to get going early and often to take advantage of a Raiders secondary that recently released safety Damon Arnette and use the scoreboard to apply pressure to an offense that parted ways with Henry Ruggs. The Raiders don't have a player on their roster who has more than one interception through their first 10 games, and Prescott doesn't often turn the ball over.
That's an equation that works heavily in the Cowboys favor on Thanksgiving, in a game that might get out of hand before the Raiders can pull their turkey out of the proverbial oven.
The Cowboys have scored at least 40 points in three of their first five home games and are averaging a whopping 36 points at AT&T Stadium. If they defeated the Chiefs, maybe they take a bite of the cheese once again, but they didn't, and that spells trouble for the Raiders; and it probably won't require the use of an index card.
Cowboys 44, Raiders 20