Raiders vs. Cowboys position-by-position breakdown

The Raiders host the Cowboys at 5:30 p.m. in a “Sunday Night Football” matchup. Here’s a breakdown by position:

Quarterbacks

Derek Carr took the bulk of the blame for the Raiders’ horrendous first three quarters against the Chiefs last week. Carr, who has failed to stretch the field this season, opted for checkdown passes instead of going deep when the Raiders pulled within 11 points in the fourth quarter in Kansas City. Dak Prescott had his struggles in November, but broke out last week with three touchdown passes against the Giants.

Advantage: Cowboys

Running backs

It took the Cowboys three games to find a running game after Ezekiel Elliott began his six-game suspension. The combination of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith is a major reason the Cowboys have won their past two games. The Raiders could struggle to keep up with Smith, who can catch out of the backfield. Marshawn Lynch tends to have his big games when the Raiders are leading. That might not be the case this week.

Advantage: Cowboys

Receivers

The Raiders didn’t help out Carr last week by failing to get open against a poor Chiefs secondary. Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson and Johnny Holton will need to step up with Amari Cooper being ruled out. Dez Bryant had a big outing last week with 73 receiving yards a touchdown. Cole Beasley has disappeared for most of the season.

Advantage: Cowboys

Offensive line

Losing left tackle Tyron Smith for a few games was as bad as losing Elliott for the Cowboys’ offense. Prescott was sacked numerous times, and the rushing game was absent. With Smith back, the Cowboys are near top form. The Raiders will have a tough time applying pressure against Smith and Zack Martin.

Advantage: Cowboys

Defensive line

Khalil Mack going up against Smith will be a must-see matchup. As a unit, the Raiders have stepped up to help the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Bruce Irvin and Denico Autry have removed the double and triple teams Mack is used to seeing. The Cowboys are led by explosive pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, who is second in the league in sacks with 13.5.

Advantage: Raiders

Linebackers

The Cowboys got a boost from Sean Lee returning to the lineup a week ago. Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Anthony Hitchens feed off Lee’s leadership. NaVorro Bowman has given Irvin a spark.

Advantage: Cowboys

Secondary

The Raiders will be without safety Obi Melifonwu, who is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery this week. Raiders cornerback David Amerson (foot) is projected to miss another game. He’s been out since October. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick (back) is out for the Cowboys.

Advantage: Cowboys

Special teams

Ryan Switzer takes care of punt and kickoff returns for the Cowboys. Patterson has cooled off as the Raiders’ kick returner.

Advantage: Raiders

Intangibles

The Raiders were embarrassed in Kansas City, but they play much better at home, going 4-2.

Advantage: Raiders

Handicapper’s take

Micah Roberts (Sportsline.com): Cowboys 26-13 — Both teams are still in the playoff hunt, and while the Raiders have an easier path in the AFC, it’s the Cowboys who could do damage if they make the NFC playoffs. Both teams are 100-1 to win the Super Bowl. Elliott doesn’t return until next week, but the past two weeks the Cowboys offense has looked just fine with Prescott finally feeling comfortable. Sure, those games were against two of the NFL’s worst defenses, but the Raiders’ defense is almost as bad, with a league-worst 10 takeaways. The Raiders offense continues to sputter weekly. Both teams are staying under the total in the past month: The Raiders have gone under in four straight and the Cowboys in four of their past five.

More Raiders: Follow all of our Raiders coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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