The lights won't be brighter anywhere else than they will be Thursday in Arlington, Texas.
The Las Vegas Raiders are heading into a Thanksgiving Day game against the Dallas Cowboys, anticipated to be a legitimate showdown between the two teams that have cerebral quarterbacks going up against tenacious defenses. Derek Carr and Dak Prescott have been having productive seasons for their respective teams, but have struggled as of late. Both QBs will feel propelled to step up big on the national stage against the likes of Maxx Crosby, Casey Hayward Jr., Micah Parson and Trevon Diggs.
Here are a few key matchups for the Raiders' Week 11 game vs "America's Team."
Derek Carr vs. Micah Parsons
Derek Carr will have a chance to redeem himself and his team on national television Thursday, but a young beast donning No. 11 will be in his way.
So far this season, Micah Parsons has been more than just a linebacker, he's just been a bonafide athlete. The 2021 first-round pick out of Penn State can be found all around the field from the trenches, to the middle of the field, to deep in coverage. Parsons has been playing a combination of linebacker and defensive end, and has already tied the Cowboys' rookie sack record with eight. He also has 62 total tackles, 18 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles this season – one of those fumbles being a strip sack on Patrick Mahomes last Sunday. His 90.7 PFF grade was the highest of any defensive rookie in Week 11.
"Tremendous player. ... Unbelievable athlete," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Monday. "Great rusher, he creates a mismatch problem for backs across the league when he lines up at the linebacker position. And he has great speed off the edge, so he possess a great challenge for our tackles coming off the edge. Just got to be really aware of where he's at and what your matchup is against him."
While Parsons has done job a great job getting after the quarterback, the Cowboys have allowed the 12th-most passing yards per game this season. Carr is still top five in the league in passing yards and top 10 in completion percentage. With proper blocking from his tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker to contain Parsons, Carr should have ample time in the pocket to pick apart the Cowboys secondary with Darren Waller, who had seven catches and a season-high 116 yards against the Bengals.
The Raiders' defensive line vs. Dak Prescott
In the Cowboys' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Dak Prescott had statistically his worst showing of the season. The two-time Pro Bowler had his lowest total in passing yards (216) and quarterback rating (57.9) this season.
What was the behind the poor showing by the star quarterback? The Chief's pass-rush against a banged up Dallas O-line. Prescott was sacked five times Sunday and could never truly get comfortable in the pocket. Prescott has been sacked seven times in the past three games and has completed over 70 percent of his throws in only one of those games.
The Silver and Black have 24 sacks through 10 games this season, which is more than they had all last season. They are also second in the league in quarterback hits with 76. The line has been held down by Maxx Crosby , who's leading the league in quarterback pressures and Yannick Ngakoue, who is leading the team in sacks (7.0). Those two edge rushers along with Solomon Thomas (3.5 sacks) and Quinton Jefferson (3.0 sacks) will have a lot of responsibility on them to get after the quarterback and could have a direct impact in the result of this game.
Denzel Perryman vs. Ezekiel Elliot
I've had to write about this for a while now, and unfortunately I'm going to have to say it again. The Raiders need to find a way to stop the run.
The loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was another example of the Raiders' run defense failing to limit their opposition. The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the league currently, and gave up 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Joe Mixon in their last game. And it doesn't get any easier for the Raiders on Thursday. Ezekiel Elliot has been a premier back in the NFL since he was drafted, having led the league in rushing yards in 2016 and 2018. On the season, Elliot has run for nearly 700 yards and seven scores.
Denzel Perryman has proven to be the Raiders' best run stopper so far in 2021. The linebacker has complied a league-leading 74 solo tackles and 114 in total this season. He had 12 tackles – two of those tackles for loss – against the Bengals. Perryman will have to lead the defense into making the right run fits to slow down Elliot in AT&T Stadium. The Silver and Black have all the talent and ability to slow down the run game; execution will be what it comes down to.
"He's done a good job. He's been one of our leaders, there's no doubt about it," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said about Perryman. "We put a lot on his plate as far as calling the defense, making the checks on the defense and then having the ability – with having all that on your plate – to play fast. He's playing extremely fast for us right now. He's getting some plays, getting some pass breakups as well as tackles."