Jason Garrett v. Oakland Raiders: is 1-0 in the only game he’s coached between these two iconic franchises with a 31-24 win over Oakland in 2013. The Cowboys trailed 21-7 in the second quarter but rallied with a big second half behind running backs Demarco Murray and Lance Dunbar.
Key matchup: TE Jared Cook vs. FS Byron Jones: Cook ruined the Cowboys’ 2016 season with a sensational sliding catch along the sideline to set up Green Bay’s game-winning field goal as time expired in a NFC Divisional playoff game. Well, Cook signed with Oakland as a free agent in the offseason and he’s caught 48 passes for 621 yards and two touchdowns. Jones has been solid this season, but the Cowboys drafted him to be a playmaker - and he hasn’t done it. He has one interception this year, but has lost some playing time to Kavon Frazier, who’s a more physical player. The Cowboys need Jones to have a big game because if they don’t beat the Raiders the playoffs become a pipe dream.
X Factor: Running back Rod Smith has emerged as an important player during Ezekiel Elliott’s absence. He handles goal line, short yardage and third downs for the Cowboys and he’s emerged as a playmaker. Smith caught five passes for 113 yards against the Giants, including an 81-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. He also ran six times for 47 yards. The Cowboys’ offense has been devoid of playmakers without Smith but he has shown an ability to make plays. That has earned him additional playing time and has made him an important part of the offense, especially on check-down passes.
Key stat: Oakland has forced just 10 turnovers, which is last in the NFL. The Raiders, who somehow went the first 10 games without an, have intercepted just two passes this season. That’s the league’s lowest total, but they have two in the last three games.. Dak Prescott is good at protecting the ball. If the Cowboys don’t turn it over and help the Raiders, then Oakland will have a difficult time winning.
Gameplan: It’s vital for the Cowboys to protect the ball, something that’s usually not a problem for Prescott because the Raiders will have difficulty winning without help. The Cowboys, as they do every week, will try to dictate the game by running the ball and putting Prescott into manageable situations on first and second down. It’ll be interesting to see if Smith is more involved on third down since he made some big plays last week. Oakland will attack the Cowboys’ secondary deep, hoping to make some big plays or get some pass interference penalties for long gains.