On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys played the biggest game of their season. They halted the New York Giants’ four-game winning streak and put themselves in a first-place tie with the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, the team will try to take sole possession atop the NFC East.
The Cowboys were able to go on the road and defeat a team that hadn’t lost since Week Six. On Thursday night, Dallas will face a much easier test when they return home to host the Oakland Raiders. The betting line at most Las Vegas casinos has them listed as the biggest favorite of Week 13 at 9.5 points.
No team in the NFL has been better against the point spread than Dallas and their 8-3 record. They’ve been even better at home, where they’ve failed to cover only once.
The Raiders are coming off a loss that put them in the cellar of their division. They have struggled the entire season, failing to put together back-to-back wins at any point in the year. All of Oakland's wins have come against sub-.500 teams.
Most recently, the Raiders were defeated by the Tennessee Titans. Quarterback Matt McGloin got the start over a healthy Terrelle Pryor, but failed to duplicate the same success he had in his debut. The rookie gave his team a chance, leading them on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, only to have the Raiders defense give up a score with 10 seconds left. According to head coach Dennis Allen, McGloin did enough to earn himself another start.
“Yeah, I thought Matt played well,” Allen said, via ESPN.com. “And for him to lead us back when we needed a touchdown, he got us the touchdown we needed to give us the lead. We just couldn't hold it defensively.”
Pryor kept Oakland competitive in the beginning of the season, but his performance dropped off after the first few games. In his first four starts, he registered two passer ratings of more than 112.0. In his next four games, he never surpassed 55.7.
Despite their issues at quarterback and failure to compete with the better teams in the league, the Raiders are still alive in the playoff race. Six different teams are tied for the final two AFC wild card spots, and Oakland trail them by just one game. Two of their final five games will come against some of those 5-6 teams.
Dallas is in a playoff race of their own, and could be in for a big day. If they can get close to the 30-point mark, which they’ve done in almost half their games, it should be a win for the Cowboys. The Raiders have failed to score more than 28 points this season, and Tony Romo will be going up against one of the worst secondaries in the league. Oakland's defense is ranked 25th ranked against the pass in the NFL and will try to stop a quarterback who may be having a career year. On Sunday, Romo didn’t put up very big numbers, but he was still able to engineer a late drive to clinch the contest for the Cowboys.
"I think you either feel comfortable in those situations or you don't," said Romo. "Just through all the experiences and all the times you've put yourself in that position as a team and we feel good. We've done that a couple of times these last three weeks or four weeks and you just go out and do it."
Historically, the Cowboys have excelled on Thanksgiving. They are 28-15-1 on the holiday.
Prediction: Dallas 34, Oakland 13