At number 23 in the latest BTB Power Rankings, it would be easy for the Dallas Cowboys to take the Oakland Raiders lightly. As Tom Ryle stated in his comments, "They are one of only five teams in the AFC that is not at least tied for the last playoff spot." It is true that the Raiders are 4-7, but I want to remind everyone that the Boys are 0-3 against the AFC West this season, and they cannot afford to take the team from Oakland as anything less than a serious opponent. A loss would take away everything that the team managed to gain on Sunday. There are enough pieces on the roster for Dennis Allen's charges to throw a wrinkle into the Cowboys plans.
For starters, the Raiders do have some guys who can get after the passer. Jason Hunter and Lamarr Houston bring the heat from the edge, and Houston has proven that he can be more than a handful, just ask the Giants Justin Pugh. Tyron Smith is going to have to turn in another solid performance to keep Tony Romo's blindside covered. They also have enough up front to get a push in the middle, so look for the Cowboys interior to get tested as well. If the line doesn't hold up, it could turn into a rough day for Romo. Oakland also features a corps of competent linebackers in Sio Moore, Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett. They are equally effective in both run and pass defense. In fact, over at the mothership, Brian Broaddus called Sio Moore "one of the most impressive rookies that I have seen this year." Dallas will have to account for him on every snap. The shortcoming in Oakland is the defensive secondary. Rookie first round selection DJ Hayden is on injured reserve, so the corners are Tracy Porter and former Dallas Cowboy Mike Jenkins. The Raiders safeties have struggled all season to defend the middle of the field. If the Cowboys get the passing game going, it could turn into a fun day at the office, but if not, well you remember what happened when the Boys and Raiders met in the preseason, don't you?
On the offensive side of the ball, Oakland will count on UDFA Matt McGloin at quarterback, but Terrelle Pryor will be available. While McGloin may not be a physically gifted QB, but he is a tough and gritty player for the team. Running back Rashad Jennings brings a punishing style to the Raiders offense, and of course, they also hope to have Darren McFadden. Outside, the Oakland receivers are competent but not stellar. The main targets for McGloin will be Denarius Moore and Rod Streater. There is also a chance that we will finally see some guy named Andre Holmes. Yes, he has actually taken the field for the Raiders this season. Up front, the Oakland line is fairly solid, but not impressively so. The running backs, in particular, have made them look better than they actually are. Having a QB that can take a pounding also helps them out.
On paper, this is a game that the Dallas Cowboys should win going away, but, the last time I checked, the game is going to be played on green turf instead. Make no mistake, Oakland is not a good team, but then too Dallas is pretty average themselves; if the Cowboys don't show the same passion and intensity that they displayed on Sunday evening in New York, this has the potential to turn into a not so happy Thanksgiving.