The New York Giants blasted the Dallas Cowboys defense for 202 yards rushing, despite only being the 25th ranked running attack in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders come into the annual Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys with the fourth best rushing game in the league. This seems like a formula for big problems for Monte Kiffin's defense.
But that 202 rushing yards was not enough to beat the Cowboys, and although the Giants tied the game late and forced Tony Romo to demonstrate why he is one of the best fourth-quarter quarterbacks ever in order to secure the win, the Cowboys never trailed. And the Giants had to get their passing game going in order to pull even. It is a simple fact in the NFL of 2013: Most of the time, you do not win the game by running the ball.
This points the way for the Dallas defense to corral the Raiders offense. They do have to make sure they don't let Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings go off on them, but as long as they can keep the passing attack from being uncharacteristically effective, they can absorb a sizable chunk of yards given up on the ground. Remember, the victory over the Giants was in large part due to the fact that Kiffin's defense twice stopped the Giants inside the red zone and held them to field goals. Both New York touchdowns were through the air. If the Cowboys can do that again, they can afford to give up a lot of yards outside the twenty as long as Romo and company can put some points on the board.
The Raiders are expected to start Matt McGloin at quarterback. He is only averaging 181 yards per game passing. More importantly, he is not a threat on the ground. Terrell Pryor is. His 63 rushing yards per game is more than either McFadden or Jennings average (both are at 50.3 yards/game). Although McGloin is starting, Jason Garrett is aware of the threat Pryor represents, and plans to be ready for him to come in.
The biggest issue Dallas has facing the Raiders is that Sean Lee and Justin Durant are still out, leaving the team to field Bruce Carter, Ernie Sims and Kyle Wilber as their starting linebackers. Wilber was a pleasant surprise last week after being moved from defensive end to linebacker, where he seems to fit better from a size aspect. But as a whole, they were not very good in run defense. They had a lot of trouble shedding blocks, allowing far too many double digit gains. The patchwork nature of the defensive line is not a help, either. The entire front seven will need to do much better, and you can also expect to see Barry Church playing in the box a lot, trusting the rest of the defensive backs to handle Oakland's receivers in man coverage.
Overall, though, the best strategy for the Cowboys is to try to turn the game into a scoring contest. The Dallas offense should be able to strike through the air if the protection for Romo is adequate. And if they can put a lot of points up, the Raiders are not a team that will be able to match them easily.
That is all if things go the way they should. Football is a funny game, however, and you can never depend on teams to follow the script. Dallas needs to force Oakland into the role they normally play, and then they should be able to handle things.
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