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Cowboys vs Raiders: Writer predictions for the Thanksgiving Classic

Another bounce-back game is needed in Dallas. Can the ‘Boys get it done?

Dallas Cowboys v Oakland Raiders Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

As most people prepare turkeys and various side dishes, the Cowboys will be preparing to take the field, and try to dish out yet another forceful statement win following a letdown in their previous game. Losing to the Chiefs on the road isn’t quite as bad as losing to the Broncos in Dallas, but it still stings.

Now, the Cowboys return home - where they’re 4-1 with a 180-102 point differential - to take on the struggling Raiders, losers of their last three games. They’re led by interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, a former Cowboy himself. But Bisaccia can’t be excited about the reunion right now, not after seeing what the Cowboys did the last time they came off a disappointing loss. Do our writers think the Raiders will get a similar treatment to the Falcons?

When Las Vegas has the ball

Get in Derek Carr’s face

Derek Carr has been quietly having a solid year, but the recurring issue for him has been that he tends to struggle when the pass rush gets to him. That’s ultimately what differentiates him from being in the top tier of quarterbacks, as he’s generally been unable to overcome a potent pass rush and help pull his team to victory in spite of it.

It doesn’t help that the Raiders’ offensive line has been one of the worst units in pass protection, ranking 22nd in both pressure rate allowed and pass block win rate. Alex Leatherwood, their first-round pick out of Alabama this year, was struggling so much at right tackle that he moved to right guard. The problem is that his replacement, Brandon Parker, has been performing just as poorly. Left guard John Simpson has struggled too, but he’s not even a lock to play this week after being limited in practice with a rib injury.

There are a lot of ways to attack this offensive line and make life hard on Carr, and Dan Quinn has surely designed some creative looks to take advantage of Micah Parsons’ hot streak. If Dallas is able to get pressure on Carr early, it’ll throw him off rhythm and make it very hard for the Raiders offense to move the ball. That’s when this ball-hawking secondary will be gifted some chances to truly make a difference.

When Dallas has the ball

Attack the second level

Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley knows Quinn well. They coached together back in Seattle, and Quinn took over the defense when Bradley became the Jaguars head coach. Unlike Quinn, however, Bradley has pretty much stuck to the same single-high safety scheme the Seahawks made famous. He didn’t even switch to a split-safety shell against the Chiefs, as every other team has all year, and the result was a big ol’ 40 burger being cooked up.

The issue for Bradley is that he doesn’t really have the talent to hold up in the secondary under this scheme; the Raiders are allowing the sixth-most EPA/play on dropbacks this year. Rookie Nate Hobbs has struggled defending the slot, while box safety Johnathan Abram and linebackers Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton routinely get abused over the middle of the field.

If CeeDee Lamb is cleared to play in this game - which it looks likely to happen at this point - watch for him to see a lot of opportunities against Hobbs, while Dalton Schultz and the running back duo should see a lot of matchups to take advantage of these linebackers. That means quicker passing concepts, too, which will help mitigate the pass rushing might of edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue.

Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...

Tom Ryle:

Last week, I was too optimistic because the team was indicating Tyron Smith would start. Hopefully he is indeed back this week. What is certain is that Dak Prescott feeling embarrassed and angry this week. Back in the weather controlled environment of AT&T Stadium, I expect him to be much more effective even without Amari Cooper and maybe CeeDee Lamb as well.

We still need to keep a wary eye on the Connor McGovern experiment, but Smith should help steady that. And outside their pass rush, the Raiders are not playing as well as the Chiefs were, just getting beaten handily by the Bengals in a game where Derek Carr seemed to struggle just as much as Prescott did against Kansas City.

I’ll put my money on Prescott having the most effective rebound in a 33-16 Cowboys win.

Terence Watson:

This week is going to be a bit challenging for the Dallas Cowboys. The good news is CeeDee Lamb, Tyron Smith, and Ezekiel Elliott are all practicing. The bad news is each of them are still banged up so we aren’t sure what we can expect out of them this week. The Cowboys are going to be relying heavily on their defense to keep them going against a hot and cold Raiders offense. Micah Parsons should be in for another big game and with the way Jourdan Lewis played against Kyle Pitts look for him to cover Darren Waller on Thanksgiving.

It’s going to be a good one this week and one the Cowboys should win. Cowboys 27 Raiders 17.

Matt Holleran:

This is a game the Cowboys should win, but with all the injuries they are currently dealing with it’s not going to be easy. Getting Tyron Smith back would be huge, as the Raiders have a very impressive pass rush group. Ultimately, that matchup is where I see this game being decided.

If the Cowboys can give Dak Prescott enough time, they’ll win this game. If their O-Line struggles like they did in KC on Sunday, it’s going to be a long Thanksgiving. In the end, I think this is a rather ugly game, but the Cowboys are able to make one more play on offense than the Raiders.

No one will feel good about it, but give me the Cowboys, 23-20.

Darreck Kirby:

The Cowboys enter the last of their three games in 12 days in desperate need of a bounce back offensively. The team is limited but looks like it might have CeeDee Lamb available despite missing the second half of Sunday’s game with a concussion. They’re going to need him. Of Dallas’s two most recent losses, physical play at the line has minimized the receiving corps’ impact. Talk of a “blueprint” to stop the Dallas offense started up following the disaster that was the Denver game and then returned with a vengeance following a touchdown-less trip to Kansas City.

I expect the Raiders to implement a similar approach. This game might be the most telling yet of how good the 2021 Cowboys can be. Great character wins in New England and Minnesota demonstrated resolve and tenacity the team has lacked in years prior but it’ll be their ability to play with toughness and adjust to the physical approach opposing defenses are attacking them with that’ll set the tone for the final six games and beyond. I’m willing to bet we haven’t seen the best this team can offer and that they won’t record back-to-back losses for the first time this season.

Give me Dallas 27-20.

Aidan Davis:

We are all on edge after two losses in three weeks, and understandably so, because there are a lot more question marks about this team than there were entering the bye. That means that this is a big game for the offense, coaching staff, and overall confidence for the team. The Raiders do not pose a daunting threat, but clearly the Cowboys have not excelled against AFC West teams. They need to reestablish their dominance up front on offense. Get the ground game back on track so Dak Prescott doesn’t have to do it all, and give him time to get through his reads.

On defense, the Raiders have relied on Derek Carr all season. But with a weaker pass catching corps than the Chiefs, this one shouldn’t be as difficult for the defense. Treat Waller like a wide receiver, use Parsons on the edge, and play the same defense you have since the bye. This is a scary game, and we are once again in the “prove it” stage. But this year feels different, so hopefully we aren’t wrong.

Cowboys 31, Raiders 20.

Tony Catalina:

This game feels important. It’s important that the Cowboys shake off a tough loss in a short week, and it’s important the offense gets back to their scoring ways. Thanksgiving brings a teams best shot. The world watching, and it being a big day always presents a challenge to the Cowboys.

Look for Dallas with the addition of Tyron Smith to steady the ship offensively, mean while the defense stays tough and gritty for at least one more week before the reinforcements start to trickle back in.

It’ll be a happy Thanksgiving as the Cowboys get to 8-3 with a 28-17 win.

Brian Martin:

With Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb both potentially out in Week 12, the Dallas Cowboys game plan against the Las Vegas Raiders will likely involve a heavy dose of both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the run game. After Joe Mixon rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Raiders, Kellen Moore should see the wisdom in doing the same with his dynamic RB duo. I expect the Cowboys to win the time of the session battle and in so doing improve to 8-3 with a win on Thanksgiving.

Final score prediction: 27-13, Cowboys.

Danny Phantom:

Cowboys offense bounces back in what ends up being a super-fun game plan from Kellen Moore with a couple of exotic plays. The offense gets one of the game’s best edge blockers back in action and things come a little easier for Dak and the Boys this week. Look for Cedrick Wilson Jr. to earn himself a turkey leg in this one. Defensive, opportunity calls as the Cowboys add on to their interception totals courtesy of Damontae Kazee. Cowboys win this one comfortably.

Cowboys 34, Raiders 16.

David Howman:

I’m trying not to get ahead of myself here, because this Raiders team absolutely has the talent to beat anyone on any given Sunday (or Thursday). But their offense has looked in disarray ever since Henry Ruggs was released, as Las Vegas just doesn’t have the ability to stretch defenses vertically anymore. It doesn’t help that this Dallas defense is really hitting its stride right now.

Getting Tyron Smith back helps in a big way, especially against these edge rushers. I’m not sure what capacity CeeDee Lamb will be at, but his mere presence is enough to stress this defense. I don’t think we’ll get another 40 burger, but there’s no reason the Cowboys offense shouldn’t have a field day. I look to see Dak Prescott playing like his usual self again and deconstructing this defense with precision passes all over the place.

Cowboys win 33-18.

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