The Dallas Cowboys will look to keep their playoff lives afloat Sunday night when they travel to take on the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are fighting for their own spot in the postseason. At 6-7, they remain a game back of the 7-6 Chiefs and Chargers for the division lead. Desperate teams make for dangerous teams. Both of these teams are indeed desperate which should lead to some highly competitive football.
Where: Oakland Coliseum
When: Sunday 8:30 PM EST
TV: NBC Sunday Night Football
Line: Dallas -3 (O/U 45.5)
David Irving, Orlando Scandrick both out, as is Justin Durant. pic.twitter.com/Qr50QH35W4
— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 15, 2017
The Cowboys will be without standout defensive tackle David Irving for the second straight game due to a concussion. The fact that Irving is now missing multiple games at the hands of a concussion no one knew about until the day after the Washington game is concerning. Orlando Scandrick will also miss a second straight game. The fractures in his back are improving, and there is a chance he will return next week. Tackles La’el Collins and Tyron Smith are dealing with back injuries of their own. However, both are expected to play on Sunday. One late addition to the injury report should worry Cowboys fans. Sean Lee again popped up on the report with a bad back in addition to his balky hamstring. After being limited all week, Lee was a DNP on Friday. Although according to David Helman, it sounds like Lee should still be ready to go.
FWIW, Sean Lee spoke to the media this afternoon, as is his Friday custom when he’s healthy. I have my doubts he’d have done so if he didn’t think he was going to be able to play. #cowboyswire
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 15, 2017
Oakland is battling injuries in their own right. Amari Cooper, Mario Edwards Jr., Obi Melinfonwu, and Clive Walford have all been ruled out. Cooper, while having a disappointing season, is still a dangerous wide receiver. His absence will only benefit the young Cowboys secondary.
Both teams have their backs against the wall and are less than full strength. It is a win or go home type of game. The playoffs have already started for Oakland and Dallas, round one kicks off Sunday night.
“What’s that? Ah — Playoffs? Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game.”
– Jim Mora
The famous quote by former Colts coach Jim Mora could not be more true for these two squads. The road to playoffs will not be easy for either of them, but it is also not as unrealistic as some may think.
Let’s look at the Raiders first. As previously mentioned, sitting at 6-7 they are one game behind the Chiefs and Chargers. Oakland split their season series with the Chiefs and lost their first meeting with the Chargers. After this week’s game against Dallas, Oakland will travel to both Philadelphia and L.A. to finish out the year. In comparison, the Chiefs finish the year against the Chargers and Dolphins at home, before traveling to Denver in week 17. The Chargers final three games involve trips to Kansas City and the Jets before finishing the year at home against the Raiders.
Oakland looks to have the most difficult remaining schedule of the three, but winning out to finish at 9-7 may just be enough to win the AFC West.
The NFC wild-card picture is a jumbled mess with three games left. Unfortunately for Dallas, due to the Eagles clinching the NFC East last week, the wild card is their only avenue to the postseason. Atlanta, New Orleans, Carolina, Seattle, L.A., Dallas, Green Bay and Detroit all are in play depending on how the divisions shake out.
For the Cowboys, nothing is possible unless they win out. Getting to 10 wins is the first step. If they are able to beat Oakland, Seattle, and Philly to close out the year, Dallas will also need help. They will need Detroit and Green Bay to finish 2-1. In addition, they will also need either Atlanta OR Carolina to finish 1-2. This seems like a lot to ask for but let’s dive a little deeper.
While Green Bay gets Aaron Rodgers back this week, they still have to play Carolina, Minnesota, and Detroit. Not hard to envision at least one loss out of those three. The Lions will finish the year against the Bears, Bengals, and Packers. Again, not out of the realm of possibility Detroit suffers a loss there. The biggest hurdle will come in the form of Carolina and Atlanta. The Cowboys must have one of those teams finish 1-2. The Falcons seem to be the best candidate as they still have Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Carolina on the docket – three tough division games. The Panthers will wrap up the regular season taking on Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta.
So while the playoff hopes of both the Raiders and Cowboys are slim as currently constructed, a lot can change over the course of an NFL week. However, the loser of this Sunday night’s game can turn to the draft board, as their season will be officially over.