The Cowboys have outscored their opponents over the last two weeks by 68-24. Over the same period, the Raiders have accumulated a much less impressive points total of 39-43, which has obviously raised expectations for a Cowboys win.
Eight of the nine experts we poll below like the Cowboys for the win (and the lone dissenting opinion notoriously picks against the Cowboys). 85% of the roughly 100 experts and algorithms polled by NFL nflpickwatch.com like the Cowboys over the Raiders. Even the bookmakers have installed the Cowboys as 3-point road favorites.
But in the two games prior to going on a 68-24 tear, the Cowboys were outscored 15-65. What's to stop the Raiders from going on a similar tear the next two games?
Expectations are high for the Cowboys - and talk of Ezekiel Elliott's imminent return is already starting to crowd the headline space for Sunday's game - but can they live up to those expectations?
Here's what our collection of pundits thinks about the Cowboys' chances on Sunday.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dulac): Cowboys 35, Raiders 30
Last week’s loss to the Chiefs put the Raiders in poor position to battle for an AFC wild–card spot. Conversely, the Cowboys are keeping themselves in position in the NFC by winning back-to-back games by combined 68-24. And they get Ezekiel Elliott back next week.
NFL (Harrison): Cowboys 28, Raiders 22
The Cowboys meet the Raiders in a classic matchup that features far more preseason history than regular-season history. That's because these two franchises have been playing in August for years. They used to scrimmage in the old days, too. Their first ever matchup that counted came in 1974 on Monday night. Oakland won behind MVP Ken Stabler's two touchdown passes and another from 47-year-old George Blanda. In 1980, Dallas upended the Raiders at their place. That Oakland team wouldn't lose another game all season, including the Super Bowl. In 1983, the 7-0 Cowboys hosted the Raiders at Texas Stadium, losing a wild game 40-38. Al Davis' team would win it all that year, as well. This year's outfit isn't going to the Super Bowl. Before we leave this blurb, remember that this Dallas team is heading into Oakland with a healthy Sean Lee. The Cowboys give up 16.9 points per game with him, 29.3 without him. That's incredible.
Sporting News (Steele): Cowboys 27, Raiders 16
The Raiders have fallen flat twice in a four-game span, trailing 30-0 in the fourth quarter against the Patriots and 26-0 in the fourth against the Chiefs last week. Derek Carr might still be hurt — he did, after all, break bones in his back earlier this season and only missed one game — or he’s completely lost his rhythm. The Cowboys have figured out how to move the ball, score and win without Ezekiel Elliott, right as they go into their final game without him.
Miami Herald (Cote): Cowboys 27, Raiders 20
Sunday nighter brings us two glamour franchises navigating unglamorous seasons. Winner here maintains slim playoff hope; loser must stop pretending. ‘Boys are 4-2 on road. WR Amari Cooper is iffy for Raiders, and return from injury of LB Sean Lee is huge for Dallas D.
Pro Football Talk (Smith): Cowboys 24, Raiders 16
Derek Carr has been a disappointment this season, and the Cowboys’ defense is going to have a good game against him on Sunday night.
La Times (Farmer): Cowboys 24, Raiders 17
Having Sean Lee back in the Dallas defense makes a world of difference for the Cowboys. The Raiders are at home, but they just haven’t looked ready to play these games.
Pro Football Talk (Florio): Cowboys 23, Raiders 14
Derek Carr was wise to take the $25 million per year; if he hadn’t, he’d be lucky to get half that now.
New York Times (Hoffman): Cowboys
No one would mistake the defense of the Raiders (6-7) for that of the Jaguars or Vikings, but it represents more of a challenge than the Cowboys (7-6) have faced in either of the last two weeks. Dallas scored 68 points in those games, which indicates the offense has adjusted to life without Ezekiel Elliott, but it is not clear how much that was helped by inferior competition.
Helping matters for Dallas is Sean Lee, the team’s standout linebacker, who recently returned from an injury. If Demarcus Lawrence can put consistent pressure on Derek Carr, and Lee can take care of the middle of the field, the Cowboys’ improving secondary should shut down Oakland’s vertical threats. Pick: Cowboys
CBS (Prisco): Raiders 34, Cowboys 30
The Raiders were awful last week at Kansas City, but I expect a bounce-back game here. Derek Carr put the blame for that loss on him, and I think he responds. The Raiders will score a bunch of points to win a shootout.