(Editor's Note: The start of the 2017 season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to prepare. The Cowboys face a daunting schedule this year, highlighted by the AFC West and NFC West, as well as their traditional rivalries in the NFC East. Over the next two weeks, Bryan Broaddus will preview what to expect from all 13 of their upcoming opponents. The series continues with Week 15 and the Oakland Raiders.)
Series Record:Raiders lead, 6-5
This Year's Matchup:Dec. 17, Oakland Coliseum
Best Draft Pick:The Raiders' best draft pick might be their most risky. There was no question about Gareon Conley's ability coming out of Ohio State. The biggest question stemmed from an alleged off-the-field incident in Cleveland where he was accused of rape just prior to the NFL Draft. Without much to go on, teams were put in a situation whether to select Conley or let him pass through the draft. The Raiders selected him with their first round selection, 24th overall. If cleared of any wrongdoing, Conley should compete with David Amerson and Sean Smith for playing time. In talking to folks with the Raiders, they love the athletic ability of Conley. They also know that there likely is a learning curve for the rookie but they're very happy to have him.
Best Free Agency Move:One thing you could always plan for when Al Davis ran the Raiders was he was going to find a receiver that could stretch the field. For as good as the Raiders were offensively in 2016, they only had two pass plays over 50 yards. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper are outstanding intermediate receivers, but you don't see them run those vertical routes that were such a part of the Raiders history. Cordarrelle Patterson was added in the offseason not only to provide that deep threat but give them a boast in the return game where he excelled while in Minnesota. The Raiders were in the bottom third of the league (22nd) when it came to kickoff return average. Patterson averaged 32 yards a return and the Vikings were ranked first in the NFL as a result.* Most Troublesome Matchup:*The Raiders have one of the best young quarterbacks in the league with Derek Carr. When the Raiders met the Houston Texans in the first round of the NFL Playoffs last season, it was clear that without him in the lineup the Raiders had no chance. His leadership, toughness and ability to protect the ball was badly missed. Of his 560 attempts in 2016, only six of those passes were intercepted. When he is on, this offense rolls and is difficult to defend due to his ability to spread the ball around.
Most Favorable Matchup:I will be interested to see if Marshawn Lynch really has anything left in the tank. The Raiders let Latavius Murray walk after the season. Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington accounted for 1,746 rushing yards. The Raiders expect Lynch to regain his form, but if he struggles, that will put more pressure on Richard and Washington to have to carry the load.
Unsung Storyline:The Raiders made the playoffs in 2016 and top to bottom have a top-10 roster in the league. The question will be with the move away from Oakland in the near future, will those distractions take away from the momentum that head coach Jack Del Rio has built in two seasons while in charge?