Playoff push begins now

With the December stretch coming up, the Cowboys (7-3) need to use Thursday's game against the Raiders (3-7) as a tune-up for the playoff push.

That means they need to find a way to get their sputtering offense back on track.

These are the Cowboys' numbers on offense through the first eight games of the season, which included a four-game winning streak and move to first place in the NFC East -- 27.1 points per game, 404.5 total yards per game, 138.6 rushing yards per game, 265.9 passing yards per game and 41.6 percent conversion rate on third downs.

There are the Cowboys' numbers the past two games, a 17-7 loss to the Packers and an ugly 7-6 win against the Redskins: 7 points per game, 291.5 total yards per game, 107 rushing yards per game, 184.5 passing yards per game and 26 percent conversion rate on third downs.

"We got things we need to work on and look at," coach Wade Phillips said. "It's hard for me to say what the problems are. We are in the process of doing that."

More to the point, the Cowboys haven't been able to get out of their own way. Penalties, turnovers and missed assignments have played huge roles in the declining attack. It's something the Cowboys know they must correct if they hope to finish strong in December and realize their playoff dreams.

"You know you have to get better," quarterback Tony Romo said. "If we play that type of football week in and week out, we won't be able to accomplish the goals that we need and want."

"There's got to be something, a little fire about the way you feel right now, and offensively we feel like we left our team out to dry in some ways," tight end Jason Witten said. "Tony played hard the whole way with him being banged up, but you've just got to improve, and we know that. It seems like it's something different each time, and we were able to run the ball and get the offense going, but in the end we weren't able to put points on the board."

The thing that most of the Cowboys talk about is their sudden inability to convert on third down, which has killed drives. Before the recent slide, the Cowboys completed 41 of 101 third-down chances. They have gone 3-for-11 and 3-for-12 the past two weeks.

"That is a key component for us to be successful," receiver Patrick Crayton said. "We know we can get it back on track. It's a matter of us focusing in and executing."

Crayton said the Cowboys hope to put on a good showing against the Raiders on Thursday so they can take some momentum into December.

"The tough month is coming up," Crayton said. "We know we have to pick it up. It would be good for us to come out Thursday and be sharp and be crisp. It has to look like we are doing something out there."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Raiders lead series 10-3. Oakland has won the last three meetings. Oakland is one of 10 teams that Dallas does not have a series advantage over. The Raiders are one of two teams the Cowboys have never beaten in Dallas. The other one is the Ravens.

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