With three weeks left in the regular season, the Oakland Raiders find themselves in a situation they could not have fathomed when the season kicked off in early September.
Playing out the string.
The Raiders aren’t technically eliminated from playoff contention as they are only a game out of first place in the AFC West division. However, that one game spread may seem like 100 with a tough schedule ahead. It starts this week with their final home game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys and finishes with road games at the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Chargers, even if the Charger game may as well be a home game since you can probably expect Raider Nation to take over the Home Depot Center.
First up, however, is the Cowboys. They have been somewhat of a disappointment this season as well and if the season were to end today, they would be on the sidelines watching others in the playoffs.
Dallas currently sits at 7-6 and one game out of first place in the NFC East behind the Eagles (11-2). They have won two straight and are coming off a 30-10 win against the New York Giants. They are 2-3 without star back Ezekiel Elliott, who can resume play next week.
“Explosive all across the board,” said assistant head coach John Pagano. “They have great wide receivers. The running backs have really stepped up. I know Ezekiel is something special. Watching the film with him on it. Big, physical offensive line that moves people out and they have great skill guys.
“They’re top 10 in every category you can think offensively. I haven’t seen the deep of how, if they ever said they were struggling because I haven’t seen it on tape. They’re a high explosive, powerful offense and coach [Scott] Linehan does a great job there with that.”
Offensively, quarterback Dak Prescott runs the show that has underwhelmed without Elliott. He still has some good receivers in Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten – who destroyed the Raiders in the preseason game between the two teams.
The Raiders are a little banged up going into the Sunday night game, with 15 players listed on the injury report. Three, however, were listed as full participants in Thursday’s practice. Cornerback David Amerson, wide receiver Amari Cooper, defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr, safety Obi Melfonwu, tight end Clive Walford and running back Marshawn Lynch did not participate in practice on Thursday.
Lynch’s absence, however, was not injury related.
The Cowboys had nine on their injury report, with only wide receiver Bryce Butler, defensive tackle David Irving and cornerback Orlando Scandrick sitting out Thursday’s practice.
The game is the prime-time feature contest at 5:30 p.m. Sunday Night Football on NBC. Dallas is currently a 3-point favorite with the over/under set at 46 points.