The Oakland Raiders might be banged up for Sunday’s game versus the Dallas Cowboys, but Sean Lee and Tyron Smith’s health could be factors in this game.
The Oakland Raiders will be without four starters on Sunday Night Football in Week 15 versus the Dallas Cowboys. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is out with an ankle injury. Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. won’t play because of an ankle. Rookie safety Obi Melifonwu is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery. Tight end Clive Walford is in concussion protocol.
While those four players will be missed for the Raiders, that’s only half of their Week 15 injury report. Four other players are either doubtful or questionable for the Silver and Black. Cornerback David Amerson is again doubtful with the foot.
Possibly having as many as eight players out for the Raiders could be a huge problem for this team. That being said, it isn’t like the Cowboys are coming into this game at 100 percent either. The Cowboys had nine players on their injury report.
Three are out, including defensive lineman David Irving, who is in concussion protocol. Six are questionable, including middle linebacker Sean Lee and left tackle Tyron Smith, both of whom are dealing with back issues. Lee is also dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. So how does this impact the Raiders in their game versus the Cowboys on Sunday in primetime?
Having Irving out limits the Cowboys’ pass rush considerably. They still have an elite pass rusher in Demarcus Lawrence, but Irving is a total game changer for the Cowboys up front. Oakland has given up more sacks this year than last, but still has talent on the offensive line to keep Derek Carr up right.
Irving’s absence definitely helps the Raiders, but if either Lee or Smith can’t go, then that’s a huge advantage for the Silver and Black. Simply put, the Cowboys’ offensive line goes as Smith goes. The same can be said for the Dallas defense depending on Lee’s health.
Smith has already missed two games this season for the Cowboys. Remember that game where Chaz Green gave up six sacks to Adrian Clayborn of the Atlanta Falcons? Not saying that Bruce Irvin will get half a dozen takedowns of Dak Prescott, but do keep in my how well Irvin has played of late. He has five quarterback sacks in three games.
Smith might be the best left tackle in football, but we haven’t seen Irvin play this well in a Raiders uniform before. This could be a rare opportunity where the Raiders have the upper hand against an All-Pro talent like Smith on the outside. Oakland might even line up Khalil Mack opposite of a banged-up Smith or his replacement on Sunday should he not be able to go.
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Lee is the cornerstone of this Dallas defense. When healthy, he’s like the second best middle linebacker in football behind only Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers. However, he is so injury-prone. The Dallas defense is pretty 11 road cones without him out there.
Since he is dealing with multiple injuries, that could mean he’ll wear down as the game goes on. Lee has already missed five games this season for the Cowboys. He has never played a 16-game NFL season in his seven-year NFL career out of Penn State. It’s all the more reason that Raiders offensive coordinator should pound the rock with Marshawn Lynch as his bell-cow back. Lynch’s punishing running style could force Lee out of the game.
Let’s not forget that the Cowboys’ other linebacker of note in Justin Durant is out with a concussion. Dallas could be very vulnerable at linebacker this week. Do keep in mind this is the same Dallas defense that Raiders tight end Jared Cook made that unbelievable catch while he was with the 2016 Green Bay Packers in the divisional round at AT&T Stadium.
In a way, this game will come down to who wants it more. Both teams are far from healthy, so look for the home crowd in Oakland to try to push the Silver and Black over the top. Beating the Cowboys will be very hard to begin with, but no Irving and injury concerns to Lee and Smith could push the Raiders over the top.