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Pick Six: Can The Raiders Slow Down Demarcus Lawrence?

Posted Dec 15, 2017

Here are six things to keep an eye on this weekend when the Raiders host the Cowboys.

Well, Raider Nation, Sunday is a big one.

The Oakland Raiders need to handle business at home Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, while Dak Prescott and Co., also desperately need a W to remain in their own playoff hunt.

Plain and simple, there’s a lot on the line Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The eyes of the NFL world will be locked on Oakland for Sunday Night Football, so before the two teams take the field, here are six things to keep an eye on.

1. Does Derek Carr bounce back?

While Dak Prescott is coming off arguably the best game of his career, Carr’s last outing is one he’d sooner rather forget.

While D.C. did eventually finish the Week 14 loss with 211 passing yards, with just 31 yards at the half, there’s no getting around that Sunday afternoon was a rough day at the office for No. 4.

Now, after what we’ve seen from Carr the past few years, I think it’s fair to say that his output against the Chiefs was certainly more the exception than the rule, but if the Raiders want to topple the Cowboys, they’re certainly going to need a resurgent Derek Carr at the helm of the offense.

2. Can the Raiders limit Demarcus Lawrence?

After starting 2017 at a pace that would make even the best pass rushers in the league raise an eyebrow, Lawrence has slowed considerably as the season has worn on, but even with a slow few weeks, the explosive defensive end still ranks second in the NFL in that metric.

With 13.5 sacks to his name, Lawrence has already far and away cleared his previous career high, so don’t let his two sacks over the past four weeks sway you; this man is having an elite season.

While Marshall Newhouse will likely be dealing a lot with Lawrence one-on-one come Sunday night, stopping big No. 90 will be a team effort.

Through 13 games, the Raiders offensive line has allowed just 21 sacks, and they’re going to have to make sure to keep Derek Carr upright if they want to head home Sunday night with a much-needed win.

3. What’s the plan if “Coop” can’t go?

After once again not practicing all week, Amari Cooper has officially been ruled out of Sunday night's game against the Cowboys.

So without the services of No. 89, what’s the plan out wide?

Well, per usual, I would assume that we’d see a heavy dose of Michael Crabtree, and going up against a Cowboys pass defense that ranks No. 23 in the league, I’d also posit a guess that we’d see a good amount of the trio of Johnny Holton, Cordarrelle Patterson and Seth Roberts as well.

It seems like the Raiders haven’t had their full complement of wide receivers a lot the past few weeks, and if that is once again the case come Sunday, Crabtree and Co., are going to need to step up in a big way.

4. Pressure is the name of the game

Like a giant, defensive, pass rush monster, the Raiders defensive line has awoken big time the past three weeks.

Since Assistant Head Coach – Defense John Pagano took over the helm headed into the Week 12 clash with the Denver Broncos, the Raiders defensive line has been on a different level, totaling 12 sacks in the past three weeks.

Bruce Irvin in particular has enjoyed a strong month under Pagano’s leadership, and I’m excited to see if that hot streak continues Sunday night in primetime.

Like the Silver and Black, the Cowboys have established a strong presence in the trenches, and getting sacks against a unit that has allowed just 25 all year will be no easy task.

5. Can the Raiders stop the run?

Even without the services of Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys still boast one of the premier rushing attacks in the NFL, averaging 137.5 yards on the ground per game.

While Elliott serves out his suspension, veteran running back Alfred Morris has stepped up in a big way; he has 485 rushing yards on the year, and has carried the football 46 times in the past two weeks.

Pagano’s group not only has to scheme for Morris, but quarterback Dak Prescott as well, who ranks third on the team with 288 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

The Cowboys have shown repeatedly this year that they’re at their most dynamic when they control the line of scrimmage, and get the ground game rolling, so keep an eye on the Raiders front seven to see if they can limit Morris and Prescott.

6. Time for some home cookin’

Here’s some good news for ya; the Silver and Black have won back-to-back home games at the friendly confines of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

As of late, the OACC has been a safe haven of sorts for the Raiders, and in order to keep their slim postseason hopes alive, Head Coach Jack Del Rio’s group is going to have to handle business at home in front of Raider Nation.

In addition to Sunday’s clash with the Cowboys being a primetime affair, it’s also the team’s last regular season game at home, so all the stops will come out for the Week 15 tilt.

A wise lady once said that there’s no place like home, and hopefully that statement runs true Sunday evening at the OACC.

A lot is hanging in the balance.