They say you have to have a short-term memory in the NFL.
It couldn’t be more true for the Oakland Raiders (4-7) this week, who have to bury the memory of a gut-wrenching loss to the Titans on Sunday and prepare to face the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) in Dallas on Thanksgiving.
A Thanksgiving Day matchup between a division leader and a scrappy young team clawing to stay in the playoff hunt is, without a doubt, an intriguing recipe.
How will Jason Tarver’s defense respond?
The Raiders defense, especially the secondary, plainly didn’t get the job done when it mattered most at home against Tennessee.
The unit consistently put themselves in good position, repeatedly forcing the Titan offense to try and convert 3rd-and-longs.
The problem is that the secondary let them convert, time after time after time. The poor performance culminated in a game-winning drive orchestrated by Tennessee quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
There has been some inconsistency from starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, but they will both need to be on their A-game to be able to handle the Cowboys’ receivers; most notably Dez Bryant.
I would like to see the Oakland defensive backs play a more physical game at the line of scrimmage, and play tighter in coverage.
An unsettling tendency to play loosely in coverage has developed, which is an homage to the “bend but don’t break” defensive philosophy that the Raiders’ coaching staff favors, but there has been far too much bend to be effective at times.
As important as the players’ execution will be the gameplan of Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is very good when given time to throw, but struggles mightily when put under pressure.
This is a weakness that I expect Tarver will gladly, and thoroughly, exploit.
Can the Raiders offense feast on the vulnerable Dallas defense?
The Dallas Cowboys defense ranks 31st against the pass, 30th against the run, and dead-last in total yards per game.
The Oakland Raiders do not have a prolific offense by any means, but with Matt McGloin under center it has gained a balance that was previously lacking.
If the Cowboys key on stopping the run, I am confident that McGloin will be able to capitalize on vulnerabilities created in the pass defense.
In fact, if the Cowboys key on stopping the run, the Raiders could probably do it anyway.
Since taking over for the injured Darren McFadden, Raiders running back Rashad Jennings leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage.
With Darren McFadden potentially returning in time for Thursday’s game, the Raiders rushing attack will be as potent as they come.
Looking to go to the Thanksgiving Day game? You can find Raiders vs. Cowboys tickets here.