Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 17, 2017 at 12:15 AM
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KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 6-5. The Cowboys have won the last two, 31-24 on Thanksgiving in 2013 and 24-7 in 2009.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cowboys and Raiders meet in what amounts to a mid-December playoff game. Dallas could win out to reach 10-6 and still be left out of the postseason. The Raiders need a win to remain a game behind the Chargers-Chiefs winner in the AFC West.

The Cowboys have recovered from a three-game losing streak with blowout wins over the Redskins and Giants.

Dallas, with running back Ezekiel Elliott still a week away from returning from his six-game suspension, will again depend on the tandem of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith. In Elliott's absence, Morris has averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry, and Smith had 160 yards from scrimmage in last week's 30-10 win over the Giants.

The Cowboys will rely heavily on their two signal callers, quarterback Dak Prescott and middle linebacker Sean Lee, who are both coming off career days.

Prescott threw for 332 yards against the Giants, and Lee, who came back after missing the better part of four games, had 18 tackles.

The Raiders' offense, which was held to 104 yards in the first three quarters against Kansas City, will need to find some answers. Derek Carr, who threw for just 211 yards last week, will try to exploit a Dallas defense that has struggled against prolific offenses.

To that end, Oakland right tackle will need to slow Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who is second in the league with 13.5 sacks.


--Raiders RT Marshall Newhouse vs. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence has 13.5 sacks and would have a few more if not for obvious holding penalties not being called. Lawrence called out the officials, so they might pay attention to this matchup. Newhouse is going to have his hands full. The Raiders have allowed just 21 sacks this season and Newhouse has been a big part of the protection of Derek Carr.

--Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Raiders SS Karl Joseph and LBs Nick Morrow and NaVorro Bowman. Witten had just one catch against the New York Giants, but it was good for a 20-yard touchdown, and he has put up 52 catches this season. Tight ends have given the Raiders fits for years; during the preseason, Witten torched the Raiders for six catches and 74 yards in the first half. Joseph will get his turn at strong safety; but, given the shallow routes Witten has run most of the season (8.8 yards per catch), he will get plenty of Morrow and Bowman as well.



--Out: LB Justin Durant (concussion), DE David Irving (concussion), CB Orlando Scandrick (back)

--Questionable: WR Brice Butler (foot), T La'el Collins (back), DT Maliek Collins (foot), TE James Hanna (knee), LB Sean Lee (hamstring, back), T Tyron Smith (back)


--Out: WR Amari Cooper (ankle), DE Mario Edwards (ankle), S Obi Melifonwu (hip/injured reserve), TE Clive Walford (concussion, neck)

--Doubtful: CB David Amerson (foot)

--Questionable: DE Denico Autry (hand, ankle), G Jon Feliciano (concussion), S Keith McGill (knee)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cowboys RT La'el Collins. He will have his hands full against Raiders DE Khalil Mack. He held his own against him in the preseason in one of his first tests at right tackle after playing left guard for the first two years of his career. He will have to do it while battling a herniated disk in his back. He held up well the past two weeks against the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Ryan Kerrigan.

FAST FACTS: Dallas QB Dak Prescott passed for a career-high 332 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, last week. ... RB Alfred Morris has 352 yards from scrimmage in his past four games. ... WR Dez Bryant aims for his third game in row with a touchdown catch. He has 58 touchdown catches since 2012, most in the NFL. ... TE Jason Witten aims for his third game in a row with a touchdown. ... DE DeMarcus Lawrence ranks second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks, a career high. He has eight sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his past six road games. ... LB Sean Lee tied his career-high with 18 tackles and had an interception last week. ... S Jeff Heath had a career-high 10 tackles and an interception in Week 14. He aims for a third straight game with an interception. ... Oakland QB Derek Carr has 1,851 passing yards (308.5 per game), 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in his past six games vs. NFC teams. In his past 10 home games, he has 21 touchdowns vs. five interceptions. ... RB Marshawn Lynch has 507 yards from scrimmage (101.4 per game) and two rushing touchdowns in his past five games vs. Dallas. He has eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage in two of the past three games. ... WR Amari Cooper has four touchdown catches in his past three home games. ... WR Michael Crabtree has six touchdowns in his past six home games. ... TE Jared Cook had a touchdown catch in Week 14. He ranks fourth among AFC tight ends with 621 yards. ... DE Khalil Mack had a sack last week and aims for a fifth straight game with a sack.

PREDICTION: With the offense humming again after three straight games under 10 points, the Cowboys appear to have momentum. Dallas is still without running back Ezekiel Elliott, but linebacker Sean Lee is back and will cause problems for a Raiders offense that was ineffective for more than three quarters last week.

OUR PICK: Cowboys, 24-16.

--Ched Whitney

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