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Raiders – Cowboys: What to watch for

Ham, turkey, sweet potatoes and football. That’s the order of thoughts entering the average American’s brain on  Thanksgiving.

For the Oakland Raiders, the order is reversed.

The Raiders travel to Dallas Wednesday evening for their sixth-ever Thanksgiving Day game, the third since the AFL-NFL merger.

The team will be looking for their third turkey-day win, the last dating back to Nov. 28, 1968 when they beat the Buffalo Bills 13-10 while playing in the AFL.

In a game both teams need to win, there should be no backing down on either sideline. Dallas will be looking for a career game from wide receiver Dez Bryant, though the young star might have his work cut out facing Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter.

Photo Gallery Titans 23, Raiders 19.

Bryant may be a focal point for the Cowboys offense, though he also may not be the guy who the game’s outcome depends on.

Rookie Terrance Williams, who is on pace for seven touchdowns and 739 yards, will need to show out.

Williams is guy who gives Bryant breathing room, especially since Miles Austin has been an absent play-maker since 2009.

The Cowboys will also be going to the air often, as they have all season. Their top running back, DeMarco Murray, hasn’t eclipsed 20 carries since week 3.

That was also only his second game of the season hitting that mark.

For Oakland, the tale of the tape is a bit different.

The Raiders offense has been carried by their running attack all season, led by Rashad Jennings or Darren McFadden. They rank fourth in the NFL on the ground, and also eighth in stopping the run.

Only the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles has surpassed 100 all-purpose yards against Oakland.

The Raiders’ offense ranks 29th through the air, though quarterback Matt McGloin has two consecutive games in which he has shown decent-to-good vision as well as awareness.

Thursday should feature the probable return of tight end Mychal Rivera, who has quickly become one of McGloin’s favorite targets. Rivera was clocked by Tennessee’s Michael Griffin last week in a hit that earned Griffin — a multiple offender of the NFL hit police — a one-game suspension without pay.

Lucky enough for McGloin and Rivera, they will be facing a Cowboys defense that resembles a spaghetti strainer — holes everywhere — ranking 31st against the pass and 30th against the run.

Some of that comes from facing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos a few weeks ago, though the same could be said for the Raiders.

With players like Rod Streater going up against sophomore cornerback Morris Claiborne, who has not fared well in his young career, it’s difficult to not give Oakland the edge.

The X-factor however, is how well cornerbacks Phillip Adams and Mike Jenkins can cover Williams. If there’s blown coverage similar to Sunday’s touchdown pass to Justin Hunter, or the deep ball to Riley Cooper during Week 9, Oakland could find itself in a rut.

Another way to keep that from happening is to utilize the run game. Just pound the ball.

In fact, had Oakland ran just two more times while hosting the Titans on Sunday, they might have won. Here’s to guessing they’ve learned their lesson.

Final Score Prediction: Oakland 27, Dallas 20

Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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