Dallas Cowboys Countdown to Oakland Raiders

WHEN:  7:30 p.m. Central Time

WATCH: NBC (Al Michaels & Cris Collinsworth)

LISTEN: Dallas Cowboys Radio Network; Sirius 81, XM 81; Cowboys app

FOLLOW: @BobbyBeltTX@CamiAnnG@JonahTulsNFL@therealmarklane


10: Number of takeaways the Oakland defense has produced — How bad are the Raiders’ 10 takeaways in 2017? Not only are they the fewest in the NFL, but they are tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL through 13 games since 1961 when the league went to a 14-game season. Only the ’13 Texans, ’15 Cowboys, and ’16 Jaguars were worse. Nonetheless, turnovers come in bunches, and the Dallas offense and return units should still treat Oakland as though they are the best in the league in this category.


9: Number of rushing touchdowns the Raiders have allowed — Oakland’s defense has given up nine rushing touchdowns, tied with four other teams for the 16th-most in the league. Among those touchdowns, six of them have come inside the 5-yard line. When the Cowboys get closer to the goal line, a greater emphasis will be placed on their ability to run the ball in such tight quarters and in such a predictable situation. Since Ezekiel Elliott’s absence, the Cowboys are tied for the fourth-most rushing touchdowns inside the 5-yard line with three. Rod Smith owns two of them.


8: Raiders’ rank for fewest sacks — The Raiders have dropped opposing quarterbacks 26 times, tied with the Chiefs and Jets for the eighth-fewest in the league. Dallas has done a masterful job of keeping Dak Prescott upright with just one sack in the past two games. Having a healthy Tyron Smith at left tackle will do that. The All-Pro blindside protector will have another challenge Sunday night with Khalil Mack, who has produced a sack in each of his past four games.


7: Chris Jones’ rank for yards per punt — The Carson-Newman product from 2011 has 43.8 yards per punt, the seventh-fewest average in the NFL. However, he is tied for the second-most punts inside the 20 with 29, and, thanks to his teammates in coverage, his punts have the absolute lowest yards per return in the league with just 3.9 per punt. Maybe the best punter won’t be in silver and black Sunday night.


6: Bruce Irvin’s rank for force fumbles — The sixth-year defense end from West Virginia is tied for the sixth-most forced fumbles in the NFL with three. Prescott, who still has a problem of holding onto the ball too long in the pocket, will need to be aware of his surroundings and get rid of the ball quicker or scramble out. The second-year field general from Mississippi State has done a good job over the past two weeks, but another solid performance would be appreciated against one of the better havoc-wreakers Sunday night.


5: The Cowboys defense’s rank for fewest rushing touchdowns — Dallas has allowed just seven rushing touchdowns in 2017, tied with Carolina and Denver for the fifth-fewest in the NFL. The Raiders offense has cobbled together 13 rushing touchdowns, tied with the Packers for the seventh-most in the league. The man with more than half the scores is Marshawn Lynch with seven. The Cowboys must hope linebacker Sean Lee shows up on the field and not on the inactives, or else it could be a long night for the defense in the Black Hole.


4: Derek Carr and Dak Prescott’s jersey number — The game will come down to who is the better No. 4. Both signal callers, who had breakthrough seasons in 2016, have gone through a slump this season. Prescott seemingly has recovered from a disastrous three-game start without running back Ezekiel Elliott, and Carr, who has the 10th-most interceptions in the league, posted a 60.1 passer rating against Kansas City last week despite consecutive games with a 95-plus passer rating. Whoever plays to their talent level and reputation may yet be the one who emerges victorious.


3: Dallas’ rank for average starting drives — The Cowboys’ offense starts their drives at the 30.5-yard line on average, the third-best starting field position in the NFL. How does that correlate with their possession per drive and points per drive? The Cowboys are ninth in possession per drive at 2:46 and sixth in the NFL in points per drive at 2.19. Dallas needs to maintain or improve upon the efficiency against the Raiders, who are the absolute worst in the NFL at surrendering 2.10 points per drive.


2: Oakland’s rank for red zone conversions — The Raiders have a 66.7 percent red zone conversion rate, the second-highest conversion rate in the NFL. However, Oakland is tied with the Jets for the fewest red zone trips in the league with 27. Some of that is because the Raiders offense lives with the big play. According to the Washington Post, among Carr’s 22 big play passes, tied for 11th-most in the NFL, six of them have been touchdown passes. Two of them have gone to Amari Cooper, who is out for Sunday night’s contest.


1: The Raiders’ rank in highest opposing passer rating — Opposing passers have compiled a 105.3 passer rating against the Oakland defense, the absolute highest in the NFL. Not only is that passer rating the highest of the season, it is the highest through 13 games since the ’15 Saints with their 114.2 rating against opposing passers. Since 1999, the Raiders’ opposing passer rating is the eighth-highest. If there was ever a time and a circumstance where Prescott needed to perform, it is Sunday night.

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