Dallas Cowboys (7-6 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (6-7 SU, 4-8-1 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DAL -3/OAK +3
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Dallas Cowboys come out west to take on the Oakland Raiders in a key week 15 matchup from the Coliseum. Both teams are still in it, with no margin for error moving forward. The Cowboys have won two in a row and on Sunday, they got some late fireworks to post a 30-10 win over the Giants. They now face an Oakland team that had a chance to get in the division lead on Sunday, falling flat against the Chiefs in a disappointing performance. After two straight wins, the win would have been big and they were instead dominated by a team that hadnt been very good in recent weeks in as costly a loss as theyve had in season filled with disappointments.
We were definitely guilty of reading too much into the Raiders form coming into the game with the Chiefs last week, as they entered the game with two straight wins over Denver and the New York Giants. Because against a Chiefs team that was in a state of total disarray, they fell behind 26-0 and werent the least-bit competitive until a late fourth-quarter spurt. For the first time in weeks, the Chiefs looked good and that happened on the Raiders watch. Three turnovers were key, as was a lack of playmaking on both sides of the ball, especially on offense.
For over three quarters on Sunday, the Raiders offense could not hit the scoreboard. We see a level of decay across all facets of this offense. The line has seen their form slip over the course of the season. Derek Carr isnt having a great season and has been banged-up. The receiving duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree havent come close to the production from last season. Cooper is working his way back after an injury. TE Jared Cook caught a TD on Sunday and has been pretty good. Marshawn Lynch has been heating up. So maybe, they can perform better at home against a Dallas defense that has played with a wide range of form this season.
The Oakland defense was not able to put forth a good showing on Sunday, giving up a good game to a Kansas City offense that hasnt been very good lately. They had some individuals making nice plays, with Karl Joseph getting a pick, Bruce Irvin getting two sacks, and Khalil Mack and NaVorro Bowman getting a sack each. They just couldnt make an overall impact as a full-unit, something that has been a recurring issue with a defense where some guys have just been taking up space this season. They will need all their playmakers to step up this week at home.
The Cowboys have managed to hang in there and after beating the Redskins and then the Giants on Sunday, they are still in it and could really explode when they get Elliott back. They started getting the aerial aspect of their offense on a roll, something that has been overdue. The defense also looked a lot better with Sean Lee back in the mix. And with different guys on offense stepping up, like Rod Smith last week, they could be dangerous down the stretch. At 7-6, however, they have no margin for error. They must keep winning and face a tricky road spot out of conference this week.
Dallas QB Dak Prescott was able to get the aerial game unleashed on Sunday, throwing for 332 yards and starting to work better with the remaining pieces at his disposal. On Sunday, he threw three touchdowns, operating behind an offensive line that has started playing well again after some rocky passages this season. For Prescott to continue making progress aerially without Elliott is key. On Sunday, RB Rod Smith was huge with 113 yards and a touchdown through the air and 47 yards rushing. Alfred Morris added 62 yards on the ground, while Dez Bryant and Jason Witten each caught TD passes. We see an offense that has become more accustomed to not having Elliott and is making the adjustments.
Getting the leader of the defense back was key for the Cowboys last week. Its striking how much their form varies based on whether or not Lee is present. Getting David Irving back would also be a big key, as they need all the difference-makers they can get. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens has started coming around after returning from injury. Safety Jeff Heath had another pick on Sunday and has been making a lot of plays in recent weeks. This defense has tightened up in allowing 24 combined points in their last two games. Having this defense heading in the right direction is mandatory if Dallas hopes to breathe some life into their faint playoff hopes.
One could argue that the Cowboys are in better form overall and look more-primed to make some noise at the end of the regular season. The urgency is there for both teams, but if the Raiders were to rise to the occasion, then why didnt they against the Chiefs last Sunday? To lose in that spot is one thing, but for them to get blanked in the first 51 minutes of the game is a damning indictment on the late-season 2017 Raiders. By the same token, this game has an up-in-the-air feel to it. The Cowboys, simply put, arent very good and seem to be getting a little too much credit on the point spread. Its a tough one to call, making me inclined to take the home dog. Ill take Oakland and the points.
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