With the NFL putting the kibosh on throwback helmets, rendering the Cowboys’ 1960’s white helmet forbidden, the Cowboys will wear their designated blue jersey at home for the first time since their Cotton Bowl days as they take on the Oakland Raiders this Thursday at AT&T Stadium (4:30 EST, CBS). Ironically, the Cowboys previous meeting with Oakland almost came on Thanksgiving, back in 2009. Tony Romo threw for 309 yards, and Jason Witten and Miles Austin each went over the century mark in receiving yards as the Cowboys crushed Oakland 24-7.
Just like their last meeting with the Raiders on the fourth Thursday of November, the Cowboys (6-5) enter the game leaders of the NFC East, owning a tiebreaker lead over Philadelphia, who takes on Arizona on Sunday. The Cowboys moved back into first with a 24-21 win over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Romo took the Boys on a game winning drive in the final minutes, capping it off with Dan Bailey’s game winning 35 yard field goal as time expired. Bailey has some experience playing the Thanksgiving hero as well. In his rookie season in 2011, Bailey’s 28 yarder gave the Cowboys a 20-19 win over the Miami Dolphins.
While the Cowboys were putting the finishing touches on their East Rutherford victory, the Raiders, hosting the Tennessee Titans, were experiencing a game winning drive of their own…albeit not in the way they intended. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 10 yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright capped off a 14 play, 80 yard drive that gave the Titans a 23-19 victory. The loss dropped the Raiders to 4-7 on the year, and three of those seven defeats have come at the hands of the Cowboys’ NFC East brethren. The most notable loss was likely their 49-20 shellacking at the hands of the Eagles in a game that saw Nick Foles throw for 406 yards and an NFL record 7 touchdowns. A week after the Philadelphia debacle, the Raiders fell to the Giants 24-20 in East Rutherford, six weeks after they suffered a 24-14 defeat to the Washington Redskins. Despite the losses, the Raiders currently sit one game out of the final playoff spot in the AFC.
With homefield advantage and a more talented roster, the Cowboys are favored to win on Thursday. Jumping out to an early lead on the Raiders will be imperative. Nothing is more dangerous than keeping an underdog, especially one that will be playing a rare nationally televised game, in a game through your own carelessness. In order to deny the Raiders any thoughts of an upset, the Cowboys will have to pressure QB Matt McGloin early. McGloin won his first career road start (albeit against Houston), so it will be up to the Dallas defense to get in his head and force him into bad decisions. RB Rashad Jennings will also be a force to reckoned with, as he has turned into a good back and a viable goal line option. The Raiders, however, will be missing top receiver Denarius Moore, which is welcome news to a defense already nursing several key injuries. Dallas’s defense performed admirably in the win over the Giants, especially considering that it was not only the historically bad performance in New Orleans, but that they played the whole game without LB Sean Lee and most of the game without CB Morris Claiborne. Both will sit out this week, a wise decision considering the Cowboys’ upcoming schedule.
Slowly but surely the Oakland Raiders are getting it together. However, this year is not the year they finally return to the playoffs for the first time since their Super Bowl XXXVII trip. The Cowboys know that the division could once again come down to the season’s final day. In order to ensure that at the very least, they’re going to have to win the games they’re supposed to win. This is one of those games. The Cowboys were called out last week by their New York rivals and rose to the challenge. Despite the win, critics galore have come out and said that the win means nothing, they’re due for a letdown against the weak Raiders. With a national audience watching and their favorite date on the calendar, except the Cowboys to once again rise to the occasion.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Raiders 13