Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys: Thanksgiving preview, stats and prediction

Dallas Cowboys helmet

Above .500 and tied atop the NFC East at 6-5, the Cowboys seem to have found momentum at just the right time, and have the perfect opportunity to maintain it against a Raiders outfit that have been decidedly abject on the road in 2013.

Having had two weeks to recover from that chastening 49-17 annihilation in the ‘Big Easy’ a game in which Dallas were gashed for a mammoth 625-yards of total offense at the hands of Drew Brees and the Saints, the Cowboys responded with a gutsy last gasp 24-21 road victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Cowboys let a 15-point lead slip, but secured victory via the boot of Dan Bailey, as time expired.

"The teams that are able to put that one [bad loss] aside and come back and go win the next game and put their best foot forward, those are the ones that play at the end of the year," coach Jason Garrett told the Cowboys' official website

"It's a long season. Games go a lot of different ways over the course of 16 games. You've just got to keep going."

And keep going they must, as when it comes to winning games to climb above .500, defeat follows. However, all four of those defeats have been on the road. They're averaging an NFC-high 34.6 points at home this season while going 4-1.

"You move on to the next one," said tight end Jason Witten, who had two touchdown receptions Sunday. "That was a big win, but they just get bigger. For our football team, that's what it's all about is focusing on this and saying, 'We're one game above .500, we've got a long way to go.' Get to 7-5, and that's the only thing we can think about right now."

Tony Romo has engineered a pair of lengthy final drives in each of Dallas' last two victories.

He capped a nine-play, 90-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds left in a 27-23 home win over Minnesota on Nov. 3.

Against the Giants, Romo once again was the epitome of poise and skill, something we haven’t always seen in clutch situations, going 6 of 9 and passing for 67-yards, including two crucial third-down throws, on the winning drive that covered the final 4:45, culminating in Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal after Romo connected with Bryant on the third play of the drive to keep it alive and added throws of 17-yards to Miles Austin and 13 to Cole Beasley, the latter on third-and-10 from the New York 28.

"I think you either feel comfortable in those situations or you don't," said Romo, whose 107.1 passer rating in the fourth quarter ranks second among 28 quarterbacks with at least 60 attempts.

"Just through all the experiences and all the times you've put yourself in that position as a team, and we feel good."

Despite ranking a measly 29th in rushing, posting on average 79.7 rushing yards per game, Dallas may have turned something of a corner after grinding out a markedly more impressive 107 against the Giants.

DeMarco Murray has averaged 5.8 yards per carry while recording 175 with a touchdown in the last two games. Factor in taking on a Raiders run defense that’s conceded an average 122.6-yards while going 1-4 away from home, (despite boasting the league’s 8th best run defense overall, allowing an impressive 99.1-yards-per-game), and Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan will be licking their collective lips.

Oakland had dropped eight straight road games before winning their most recent one, but that came against a Houston team in complete free fall.

Though Oakland held Tennessee's Chris Johnson to 73-yards on 20 carries Sunday, it undid all it’s good work by allowing the Titans to march 80-yards on 14 plays in the final six minutes of the game , handing Oakland a 23-19 defeat.

"We don't have a lot of time to sit around and wallow in self-pity," said coach Dennis Allen, whose team has suffered three defeats by a margin of four points in 2013.

"We're extremely disappointed in the loss, but we've got a game to play, and we've got to get ourselves ready to play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and that's really where the majority of our focus has turned to now."

Rookie Matt McGloin will make a third straight start, having thrown four touchdowns and one interception in the two games after taking over the starters job from the injured Terrelle Prior, out since spraining his knee in Oakland’s 24-20 loss to the Giants on the 10th of November.

Pryor was able to return last week but served as the backup, as is the case going into tonight’s game. Although, it’s not known if McGloin will be throwing to Denarius Moore, who may miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury, therefore increasing the burden on Jacoby Ford (80-yards from 20 catches) and Rod Streater (600-yards from 40 receptions).

The Raiders will have running back Darren McFadden back after he missed the last three contests with a hamstring injury. However, backup Rashad Jennings has averaged 5.7 yards per carry and 103.3 per game in the last four, further enhancing the run threat to a suspect Dallas defense that’s 31st against the pass (298.5), and 30th against the run (133.6).

Dallas, meanwhile, will be without linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant for a second consecutive game, and cornerback Morris Claiborne and Harris will also sit out, placing yet more strain the Dallas defense.

While the Cowboys are 28-16-1 on Thanksgiving, Oakland fell to 3-3 on the holiday with a 24-7 loss at Dallas in 2009. Romo posted 309-yards with two touchdowns, Witten catching five balls for 107 as the Cowboys' snapped a three-game losing streak in the series.

Prediction: Dallas may boast a porous defense decimated by yet more injury concerns, but given a formidable home record and an Oakland side that hardly epitomise the term ‘road warriors’, the Cowboys should take this one.

Score: Cowboys 34 Raiders 21

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