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Can Las Vegas or Dallas bounce back after Thanksgiving?  – CBS Chicago


(CBS DFW) – It’s been a tough month for the Las Vegas Raiders (5-5) and Dallas Cowboys (7-3). The Raiders started November at the top of the AFC West, after overcoming a scandal-driven coaching change to win five games this season. They haven’t won since. The Cowboys beat the Atlanta Falcons a few weeks ago. But to end that impressive victory is a complete collapse against the Denver Broncos and a partial collapse against the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s unclear which team from Dallas will show up at Thanksgiving against the Raiders.

The Cowboys’ scoring offense failed to find the end zone in Week 11, settling for three field goals. It was not enough. They lost 19-9 and returned a game to the Philadelphia Eagles in the division standings. Dak Prescott had a rough afternoon going 28-43 for 216 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked five times and spent much of the game under duress. Tight end Dalton Schultz caught six passes for 53 yards; Michael Gallup caught five passes for 44 yards. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for 82 rushing yards.

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The poor offensive performance can be explained to some extent by injuries and COVID. Left tackle Tryon Smith was absent with an ankle injury. Wide receiver Amari Cooper tested positive for COVID, which prevented him from playing. Fellow wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was forced out of the game with a concussion at the end of the second quarter. And running back Ezekiel Elliott suffered a knee injury that hampered him for much of the season.

The Cowboys, when healthy, are one of the best offensives in the NFL. They are averaging 418.1 league-leading yards and a third-best 29.3 points per game. Their running and passing games are both in the top five. Much of their success is due to Prescott, but he can’t do it all. And it seems unlikely that he will have his full arsenal with the short week. Cooper is already on the reserve / COVID-19 list and, not being vaccinated, will be out at least until Sunday. Lamb has entered a concussion protocol and it seems unlikely that he will clear it by Thursday. There remain Michael Gallup, who himself only recently returned to the pitch, and Cedrick Wilson. Elliott played with the aggravated knee injury, which suggests he might be available.

Dallas’ limited offense will face a Raiders defense that played well enough to win much of last week’s game. Las Vegas was down 16-13 at the start of the fourth quarter. Then the game escaped them. Joe Burrow and his company scored 16 unanswered points to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a 32-13 victory. Untimely defensive penalties have helped keep their workouts alive. But the Las Vegas defense limited Burrow to just 20-29 passes, for 148 yards and a touchdown, in the afternoon. They fired him three times. The Raiders’ defense had no answer for Joe Mixon, who carried the ball 30 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

That has been the story of this unit for much of the season. They rank among the worst against running in the NFL, allowing 132.1 yards per game, and among the best against the pass, allowing 220.8 yards.

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Their Cowboy counterparts have seen a marked improvement over the season. They took out the overwhelmed Atlanta Falcons in Week 10. And that solid game continued in Week 11 against the always dangerous Chiefs. After allowing 16 points in the first half, the Dallas defense tightened. The Chiefs’ next three drives ended in a punt or fumble. Their 10 total plays in those playoffs have only scored 25 yards. A Jayron Kearse interception and another forced punt opened the second half.

Patrick Mahomes went 23-37 for 260 yards and no touchdowns that day. Linebacker Micah Parsons sacked him twice, tying the team’s rookie record with eight this season. One of those sacks resulted in a fumble and a change of possession in Chiefs territory. The unit remains vulnerable against the pass, allowing 251.9 yards per game, good enough for the midfield. They defend the run better, allowing 103.7 yards per game. Although this low average is in part a function of an offense that sometimes jumps out on top, forcing opponents to give up the racing game.

The Raiders offense certainly doesn’t want to spot the Cowboys early. But they are comfortable trusting the pass. Derek Carr has accumulated 3,041 yards this season, third behind Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. His main target in terms of yards is tight end Darren Waller, with 610 this season. However, Hunter Renfro was also productive, especially with the loss of Henry Ruggs III. He leads the team with 56 receptions. As good as the passing game is, their ground game hasn’t been very productive. Josh Jacobs, their main rusher, has 333 yards this season on 88 attempts. He has only crossed 50 meters in a match twice.

The Raiders are now watching the Los Angeles Chiefs and Chargers in the standings. They need to come out of their crisis quickly if they are to keep pace in competitive AFC West. The Cowboys face less urgency in the NFC East, with only the Eagles showing any opposition. But they will look to re-launch their attack in week 12.

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The Raiders face the Cowboys Thursday, November 25 at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

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