STAR PREVIEW Thurs: Las Vegas Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.

The second of the Thanksgiving trio of games features the Cowboys another staple of America’s day of gobbling turkey. The Cowboys first played on Thanksgiving in 1966, beating the Cleveland Browns 26-14 at the Cotton Bowl having wanted more publicity; this was long before they became known as the self-styled America’s Team. The Cowboys have played on every Thanksgiving Day since — except in 1975 and 1977.

Backing the Cowboys on the spread over the last ten year’s would have left you eating bread and water rather than turkey as they are 1-9 in their last 10 outings on this day. They return home to face another AFC West team in the Raiders having failed to put points on the board against the other three teams in the division begging the question can they finally get a grip of an AFC West defence?

The Cowboys scored 20 points against the Chargers, 16 against the Broncos and nine against the Chiefs. Sunday’s defeat to the Chiefs was especially harsh as they had looked like an offence that was putting the pieces together but outmatched and manhandled at the line of scrimmage; quarterback Dak Prescott was under pressure all game.

The Raiders appear at Jerry Jones World having had a tumultuous last few weeks which has seen the departure of head coach Jon Gruden and wide receiver Henry Ruggs involved in a fatal car accident which has left him looking at 20+ years in jail and the definite end of his short NFL career. On top of all that the Raiders are without a win in their last three games and once again look as though their season is going to be one where they can be described as flattering only to deceive.

Deciphering who is going to be fit to play is one of the staples of this and seemingly most NFL season’s now especially off a short week and it looks as though Dallas will definitely be without one of their main receivers (Amari Cooper, Covid-19) and possibly another in CeeDee Lamb who remains a game time decision as he has to pass the concussion protocols. Main running back Zeke Elliot is also battling a sore knee and may be a little limited in his participation.

Those three are big-name players but the Cowboys have enough skill players on their offence to still be more than effective while the biggest plus may come in the shape of the return of left tackle Tyron Smith shoring up the offensive line that was blitzed, literally, on Sunday by the Chiefs. Prescott has when given time been able to spread the ball around through the air this year completing 20-plus passes to six different receivers.

With Cooper and possibly Lamb missing it will be up to others to pick up the slack this time around. With Elliott carrying an injury his “deputy” Tony Pollard can continue his growing role in the offence although he would be generating a lot more interest if he had more than one touchdown to his name this year although that could change here.

It’s through the air that a more protected and less hassled Prescott can do some damage this time back on home turf against the Raiders defence. Michael Gallup was the one receiver that I thought would have a big game against the Chiefs but his 10 targets only yielded 44 yards although it won’t be a surprise to see that situation rectified here. Other passing options for Prescott include slot receiver Cedrick Wilson and he’s one to look at in player prop markets along with tight end Dalton Schultz who faces a Raiders team that are vulnerable to this position.

But what of the Raiders on offence, if anything they appear to have lost their way with their lack of execution on third down becoming a real problem. For instance they turned in a miserable 1-for-7 effort in that department against the Bengals on Sunday. The Raiders offence has in essence become hard to trust, their last three points totals being 16 (vs Giants), 14 (vs Chiefs), and 13 (vs Bengals). The Cowboys have been rather eclectic on defence and can concede some big plays but in essence they were the reason that Dallas were still in the games against the Chiefs until late on.

If anything since Jon Gruden’s departure the Vegas playbook has become one-dimensional and easy to plan for and more balance is required otherwise the Cowboys pass rush will be getting home plenty often enough to disrupt the Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Dallas of late have specialised in putting the pressure on and over the last four games they have 10 sacks and 27 quarterback hits after recording just 11 in the first seven outings. Carr has taken five sacks and 13 QB hits during the Raiders’ three-game slump.

The Raiders problems are not only on third-down but converting when they get in the red-zone they rank 28th in touchdown percentage overall (51%) but that falls to 27% over the last three games.

Given how congested the NFC playoff race is this is a vital game for the Cowboys especially coming off a loss but they face a “get right” spot against the Raiders who do look to be struggling a little at the moment. Given the Raiders scoring woes the Under pitched at 49.5 look in-play but with the Raiders having problems covering tight ends Dalton Schultz looks of interest on a couple of fronts in a game that promises to be a better than the first of the Turkey Trio from Detroit.

BACK Under 49.5 match points 2pts at 6/5 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Dalton Schultz +50.5 receiving yards 2pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Dalton Schultz to score a TD 2pts at 13/8 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (NOVEMBER 2021): LOSS -8.60 points
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