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Cowboys vs. Raiders

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Editor's Note: Antony Dinero started the preseason with a sizzling 14-1 (+1,277) record. He has another winner posted for tonight's Raiders/Cowboys showdown. Click to win!

Be sure to follow Antony Dinero on Twitter @antonydinero

Sure, it's preseason, but all of this matters.

The Olympics and the NBA's top Summer saga shared headlines with the NFL's return, occasionally accomplishing the impossible in overshadowing America's pastime in August. With both events complete, look for everyone to flock to this Monday night game between two of the country's most polarizing teams, the Cowboys and Raiders.

For Oakland, 2012 offers an opportunity to start fresh, not only with a new regime, but also with rental quarterback Carson Palmer getting an opportunity to go through a training camp. He's out to become consistent by going the conventional route in becoming an organization's trusted signal caller, so from that standpoint, developing continuity after last season's flashes of brilliance and ineptitude is key.

So far, that's been difficult.

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Issues on the offensive line and with top receiver Denarius Moore have forced Palmer to try and find a rhythm with lesser options under circumstances that intrude on preparation. Darius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater will have to benefit, but in this first live run, won't get to see much of Palmer. Look for Oakland to be cautious and utilize this opportunity to take long looks at Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor.

Pryor, the Ohio State standout who withdrew from school after allegations of improper benefits surfaced, was a supplemental pick last June and is also looking forward to a conventional exhibition season. He's expected to see the majority of second-half snaps prior to giving way to the latest Ivy League quarterback hoping to express, Brown's Kyle Newhall-Caballero.

Princeton alum Jason Garrett used to live for the preseason in his playing days since it often led to extended action, so look for him to turn to his backups quickly, and not for sentimental reasons. The head coach is certain to be cautious with Tony Romo, expected to get a single series due to Dallas' offensive line issues. Center Phil Costa will miss the game to rest an ailing back, while likely starters Derrick Dockery and Mackenzy Bernadeau have been limited in practices leading up to this one. Dez Bryant has a hamstring issue that will likely earn him the night off. Miles Austin has also had hammy issues in August, so the Cowboys have gotten little work done with what's expected to be the first-string passing game.

If you're rooting for Dallas, the key will be how well Kyle Orton collaborates with young receivers Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, Kevin Ogletree and Andre Holmes. Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter are battling for the No. 3 job and will get their crack come second half, so if you're counting on the Cowboys to notch a road win, you're banking on backups to really perform in a hostile atmosphere.

Help from the running game will have to come from those vying to make the team behind DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, who are only expected to do limited work. Ed Wesley and Javarris Williams will take the snaps they would've split with Lance Dunbar and Philip Tanner come second second half.

The Raiders will field similar inexperience since Darren McFadden's primary backups, Taiwan Jones (hamstring) and Mike Goodson (neck) will both miss the contest. Lonyae Miller, who started on Dallas' practice squad and has done the same with Oakland, will be the primary back for the home team.

Jon Gruden, calling the game for ESPN, will be making his first trip back to the Oakland Coliseum (now O.co) since cutting ties with the organization. Considering it's also the first Raiders preseason game since Al Davis passed away last October, count on hearing a few stories about the team's revolutionary former owner.

Dennis Allen, the first defense-oriented coach to take the helm in Oakland since John Madden, will have many things scripted for his first dry run. Garrett went 2-2 in his first preseason in 2011, with the Cowboys going 1-3 against the spread.

  
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