The Oakland Raiders (4-7) travel on Thanksgiving to take on the Dallas Cowboys (6-5). The all-time record between the two stands at 6-4 in the Raiders’ favor. The two teams do share a tangled past through the friendship of Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis who helped Jones settle in as owner in the late 1980s. This game represents a pivotal moment in the season for the Silver and Black in that a loss would certainly end any hopes of the playoff and a win would leave them in contention.
The Thursday games are only fun when your team is at home and fully healthy, the Raiders aren’t either. Coming off a very physical game against the Tennessee Titans, the Raiders are certainly banged up at some critical positions. Starting corner Mike Jenkins suffered a concussion as did tight end Mychal Rivera, but Lamar Houston was nicked up a little as well. Houston was hobbling around late in the game, but he should be on the field. Rivera has since gone through and cleared to play after the concussion protocol.
Thursday games also provide another dimension to the visiting team in that it limits the amount of practice they can undergo in preparation for the game. The Cowboys certainly hold an advantage having traditionally played on thanksgiving. Let’s take a look at things we can expect from this game:
1. McGloin “McGlowin”
The cheesy nickname aside, I expect Matt McGloin to have a field day against the beat up Cowboys defense. The Cowboys are certainly thin on that side of the ball and are struggling with their pass rush. Good news for McGloin it’s the return of Jared Veldheer from a torn triceps injury. Veldheer may be one of the most underrated players in the league and his return should not be overlooked. Why? Because he will be going up against all-pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
McGloin should be able to establish the passing game early. The Cowboys switched to Cover 2 scheme with the arrival of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin (father of Lane Kiffin- the enemy of Raider Nation), but have failed to cover anybody. The loss of their “three technique” tackle Jay Ratliff doomed then from the start. The Raider offensive line should afford McGloin enough time to find his receivers downfield.
2. Romo to Bryant
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have had their problems, but they represent a huge threat to the Oakland secondary. I really hope defensive coordinator Jason Tarver plays this one with a safety over the top of Bryant’s routes. Having Jenkins back will be vital to stopping Bryant from ruining all over the defense.
Romo has had tremendous success with Bryant, but his favorite receiver is his roommate and tight end Jason Witten. Witten is a very dynamic threat in both passing and blocking, he has the ability to deliver on crucial third down plays.
3. Stopping Murray and Rushing Romo
When defenses stop the cowboys’ run game, they create the best scenario to stopping this dynamic Cowboys offense. Head coach Jason Garrett has resumed play calling duties from former Raiders head coach Bill Calahan. Garrett is a better play caller in my opinion, but his game management skills erode when he calls the plays. I would look out for that.
The defense has to find ways to get to Romo if you give him too much time, he will pick apart the secondary. There are many fans who like to hate Romo, but his ability is, without a doubt, special. I respect Romo’s game which has given a mediocre Cowboys team the chance to at least be average.
I will make a bold prediction and say the Raiders win this one. I can see McGloin having a really good game. At this point, after only two games, I’m willing to put my neck out there and say the Raiders have finally found their franchise quarterback. McGloin will only get better, it’s in his DNA.