The Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys will square off on Thanksgiving. It is a critical game for both teams as the Cowboys look to keep pace in the NFC East and the Raiders look to shake off a tough loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. Oakland will look to sure up their pass defense that let them down in the loss to Tennessee against a much more potent Cowboys' attack.
The Raiders have done a tremendous job against the run this season. They rank eighth in the NFL allowing only 99.1 yards per game. However, their pass defense has struggled at times allowing 258.1 yards per game, good for 25th in the NFL. The story against the Titans was the inability of the Raiders to stop wide receivers. Both Kendall Wright and Jason Hunter posted 100 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 320 yards. The Dallas Cowboys present a much larger challenge than the Titans Thursday.
Dallas ranks 12th in the NFL averaging 246.5 passing yards per game. Quarterback Tony Romo is completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,915 yards, 23 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. For all the grieve Romo gets and some of it is justified, he is a very solid quarterback. He has weapons all over the offense, none more formidable than wide receiver Dez Bryant. He will be the player the Raiders focus the game plan around. Bryant comes into this week with 61 receptions for 835 yards and eight scores.
The biggest issue Oakland faced against the Titans was their inability to bring down Fitzpatrick. Countless times he was able to escape pressure and take advantage in the middle of the field for massive first downs. The Raiders allowed the Titans to convert 10-18 third downs. Romo has some escape ability, so the Raiders will have to contain him from breaking out of the pocket and making plays.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen like to bring creative blitz packages. However, with the game on the line last week in the closing seconds, they dropped back into a soft zone and allowed a touchdown and lost. That is a tough way to learn a lesson, but it should benefit the defense going forward by remaining aggressive.
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