The beauty of playing on Thanksgiving is if you lose the week prior you can look past it quickly. That’s what this Cowboys team will look to do Thursday as Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders roll into town coming off three straight tough losses themselves.
The one thing you can bet on when it comes to Thanksgiving is the fact the away team facing the Cowboys are going to come with their best shot every time. This is a national game on a major holiday, and the world will be watching. The Cowboys have their own issues they will need to clean up before Thursday so sleep walking shouldn’t be an issue, but the Cowboys will need to come ready to play to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
Here are five things to watch this week:
1. All signs point to Tyron Smith being back this week. How does the offensive line hold up?
Terence Steele has played up and down at left tackle, but the Cowboys desperately need Tyron Smith back in the lineup. The Cowboys have yet to play a game with their starting five offensive line fully intact this season, and this looks like the first week it could happen. It would be a great time for it to happen as Maxx Crosby rolls into town and will be looking to wreak havoc. Connor McGovern didn’t have a great night against the Chiefs but nobody did. The Cowboys will look to have their offensive line, anchored by Tyron Smith, bounce back in a big way on Thursday.
2. With or without CeeDee Lamb, the depth of the Cowboys wide receivers will be called upon.
At the moment the door isn’t shut on CeeDee Lamb being available Thursday night. Assuming he doesn't go, and obviously Amari Cooper will not play as well, this will be another big opportunity for the other wide receivers on the roster to step up. Cedrick Wilson had a rough day on Sunday. Michael Gallup will need to step up and be the guy, and we might see more of Malik Turner as the Cowboys may look to up his reps with the top two pass catchers possibly down for one more week. You could pick every position on this team to say you need a statement game from them justifiably, but none would be bigger than this unit.
3. Look for Tony Pollard to get more involved.
As we mentioned above, the Cowboys receivers may be playing short-handed, and if so it could lead to more opportunities for Pollard. There aren't many players on this team as explosive with the football in their hand as Pollard is. When he has the football there is a chance for a big play to break, whether that is in the running game, kicking game, or even out wide. This league is about getting your playmakers the ball to win games, and there is no doubt that Tony Pollard is that for this team. Look for Pollard’s touches to be increased some on Turkey day.
4. How will the Cowboys deploy Micah Parsons this week?
You could argue, and probably not get much of an argument back, that Micah Parsons has been the best player on the Cowboys for the last few weeks. His relentless effort and tremendous ability has been fun to watch and a spark for this defense that held a potent Chiefs offensive attack to 19 points. The Cowboys will play at least one more game without Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, so once again the Cowboys will be calling on others to affect the quarterback and be disruptive in the backfield. When given the chance, Parsons has feasted as a pass rusher, but his skill set is so unique you don't want to pigeon hole the young rookie linebacker to one spot. It will be interesting, and definitely fun, to watch how Dan Quinn deploys the linebacker on Thursday.
5. Can the Cowboys bounce back off another tough loss?
The Cowboys have not loss back-to-back games all season, and while two of their three losses this year was by a combined margin of 12 points to both of last year’s Super Bowl teams, the offense did not look very good to put it bluntly. Who would have thought as Dallas prepared for the Chiefs last week that it was the offense we would be hoping to hold their weight to match the defense’s play. The reality is the Cowboys will once again look to shake off a tough loss, however this time there is no time to think about it with the quick turnaround right into the Thanksgiving holiday. If the Cowboys find a way to win this game and raise their record to 8-3, it is safe to think many people would feel pretty good about that. However, if they were to lose their second straight and fall to 7-4, there might be some unrest within Cowboys Nation. This very quietly could be a sneaky big game for the Dallas Cowboys.