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Week 3 Preview: Raiders @ Cardinals

2010 Season Records:

Cardinals: 1-1, last week: L @ Atlanta, 41-7

Oakland: 1-1, W, St. Louis, 16-14

Gametime:

Sun., Sept. 26, 4:15 p.m., ET., University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ

Happy to Get Out of Atlanta and Welcome Oakland to Arizona:

The Cardinals are certainly happy to put Atlanta in their rear view mirror.  Ken Whisenhunt didn’t have any fire and brimstone speeches for the media or his team, but there’s no question that the head coach sent his team a message, which was received.  The Cardinals have a golden opportunity to head home in Week 3 and get things back on track.

It’s an opportunity that Arizona must seize.  Some may think the Oakland Raiders are a tune up game and a gift for the home opener, but not for the Cardinals who struggled on both sides of the ball last week.  In addition, there are new reasons to take the Raiders seriously.  They finally had a purposeful draft, grabbing MLB Rolando McClain with the 8th overall pick, and although they have a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing, RB Darren McFadden seems to finally be living up to his potential.  The Raiders have shown the Titans and Rams that they can grind it out on the ground and they also have a very stout pass defense, led by all-world CB Nnamdi Asomugha.

Despite some recent improvements in Oakland, Arizona should flatten the Raiders if the Cardinals are to be considered a contender this year and regain some of its respectability.  After a shaky off-season, a worrisome pre-season, and a pounding in Week 2, a loss to the Raiders would be a lot for Arizona to absorb.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals are facing a number of issues including sloppy execution on offense, erratic play from Derek Anderson, fumbling, an overabundance of penalties on both sides of the ball and special teams, and, at times, a seemingly porous offensive line.

To make matters worse, Beanie Wells still remains questionable for this week.  Ken Whisenhunt stated that “I can’t say I am confident [Wells] will play.  I am certainly optimistic he will play, but he has to show me in practice this week.”  Although the Cardinals don’t even know what their offense looks like with Wells in the lineup there’s little question that his absence is placing added and unwelcome stress on an already struggling Cardinals’ offense.

While Tim Hightower did have a nice rebound game against Atlanta (11 carries, 111 yards, 1 TD), the Cardinals miss the dynamic that Beanie Wells was meant to provide; specifically, a big-play threat that can also soften up a defense with bruising runs inside.

It’s not all bad for the Cardinals, though.  There were no injuries reported last game and Larry Fitzgerald’s troublesome MCL sprain seems to be heading in the right direction.  Fitzgerald’s knee appeared much more fit and he pulled down 7 receptions for 83 yards, which is much closer to the production the Cardinals have come to expect from their best receiver.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals looked weak for the first time since the pre-season started.  Atlanta moved the ball with ease on the ground and through the air.  The defensive secondary, especially Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, had a pretty bad game and the Cardinals interior line and linebackers didn’t do much of anything to slow down Atlanta’s attack.

First round pick NT Dan Williams enjoyed much more playing time, no doubt due to the lopsided score.  Whisenhunt noted that Williams lined up incorrectly a few times, but Whiz praised Williams’ effort in his first real taste of extended playing time.  Arizona’s defense has a much easier assignment against the Raiders, but no NFL team should be overlooked.

The Cardinals really need this win badly, which they should be able to get.  A victory would move them to 2-1 before the schedule gets mighty tough for a few weeks.  After Oakland, the Cardinals hit the road to take on the San Diego Chargers and then come back home to welcome the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints to town.  Obviously, those will be two very tough games to win, despite the fact that the Cards at least get to face the Saints at home, rather than the Super Dome where it’s nearly impossible to beat New Orleans.  If the Cardinals stumble against the Raiders, they could easily find themselves at 1-4 heading into the Week 6 bye.  In short, this Sunday is the first must win game for the Cardinals in 2010.

Cardinals Week 3 Depth Chart, Injury Report: Current as of 9/24

Legend: * = probable, ^ = questionable, ` = doubtful, FP = full practice, LP = limited practice, DNP = did not practice

Offense:

WR1 – Larry Fitzgerald, Stephen Williams, Max Komar

LT – Levi Brown, Jeremy Bridges

LG – Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot

C – Lyle Sendlein, Ben Claxton, Rex Hadnot

RG – Deuce Lutui, Rex Hadnot

RT – Brandon Keith, Jeremy Bridges

TE – Ben Patrick, Stephen Spach, Jim Dray

WR2 – *Steve Breaston [knee] (LP), Andre Roberts

QB – Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton

RB – T. Hightower, *B. Wells [knee] (LP), J. Wright, L. Stephens-Howling

FB – Reagan Maui’a

Defense: 3-4 Base

DE – Calais Campbell, *Kenny Iwebema [knee] (FP)

NT – Bryan Robinson, Gabe Watson, Dan Williams

DT – Darnell Dockett, Alan Branch

ROLB – Joey Porter, Alex Hall

RILB – Paris Lenon, Reggie Walker

LILB – Daryl Washington, Reggie Walker

LOLB – *Clark Haggans [heel] (FP), *Will Davis [head] (LP)

RCB – Greg Toler, Trumaine McBride, A.J. Jefferson

LCB – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Michael Adams, Brandon McDonald

SS – Adrian Wilson, Matt Ware, *Hamza Abdullah [hamstring] (FP)

FS – Kerry Rhodes, Rashad Johnson

Raiders’ Week 3 Depth Chart:

Offense:

WR1 – Darius Heyward-Bey, Johnnie Lee-Higgins, Jacoby Ford, Nick Miller

LT – Mario Henderson, Khalif Barnes

LG – ^Robert Gallery [hamstring] (DNP), Daniel Loper

C – Jared Veldheer, Samson Satele

RG – Cooper Carlisle, Bruce Campbell

RT – Langston Walker

TE – Zach Miller, Brandon Myers

WR2 – ^Chaz Schilens [knee] (DNP), Louis Murphy

QB – Bruce Gradkowski,  Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller

RB – Darren McFadden, *M. Bush [thumb] (FP), R. Cartwright, M. Bennett

FB – Marcel Reese

Defense: 3-4 Base

LDE – Lamarr Houston

LDT – Tommy Kelly, ^John Henderson [foot] (DNP), Jay Alford

RDT – ^Richard Seymour [hamstring] (LP), Desmond Bryant

RDE – Matt Shaugnessy

SSLB – Kamerion Wimbley, Sam Williams

MLB – Rolando McClain, Ricky Brown, Travis Goethel

WSLB – Trevor Scott, Thomas Howard, Quentin Groves

LCB – Nnamdi Asomugha, ^Walter McFadden [hamstring] (LP)

FS – Michael Huff, ^Hiram Eugene [hamstring] (LP)

SS – Tyvon Branch, Mike Mitchell

RCB – Standford Routt, *Chris Johnson [neck] (FP), Jeremy Ware

Keys to a Cardinals Victory:

Offense:

  • Protect Derek Anderson: Derek Anderson took an absolute pounding in the first two games, during which he has been hit hard and taken to the ground nine times.  In fact, the Cardinals have used two timeouts, one in each game, just to give Anderson a chance to recuperate before going back out to the field.  Anderson has shown flashes of a formidable passing attack, but he’s been short on protection and lacking in accuracy and touch as well.  Amazingly, Anderson has hung in there and only thrown two interceptions in the face of enormous pressure and huge hits.  If the Cardinals keep hanging him out to dry and frustration sets in because the Cards aren’t moving the ball, Anderson may start forcing the issue, which will probably lead to a lot more interceptions, not to mention the fact that he’ll get killed.
  • Convert on Third Down: The Cardinals were terrible on third down against the Falcons, going o-8 in Atlanta.  It doesn’t seem possible for Arizona to survive without doing a significantly better job of converting.  Getting better production on first and second down may be part of the solution, which brings me back to Beanie Wells’ absence.  Wells is quite adept at getting at least 3 or 4 yards on the majority of his touches, whereas Tim Hightower is much more susceptible to carries for no gain or even negative yardage.  Third-and-eight is a down and distance that the Cardinals are much less able to handle this year without the blitz and pressure beating ability of Kurt Warner; they must do a better job at getting themselves a more manageable third down and converting.
  • Establish an Offensive Identity: Arizona must find out who they are going to lean on in important situations, which may go a long way in helping them convert on third down.  At times, it seems that the running game could potentially take off.  Tim Hightower has already broken an 80-yard run for a touchdown this season and logged a 100+ yard game against a very capable Atlanta Falcons’ defense, but he may not be the go to guy, especially with his fumbling issues.  The same could be said of Beanie Wells, who hasn’t even stepped foot on the field yet during the Regular Season.  I suppose the easy answer would be Larry Fitzgerald, but Derek Anderson hasn’t shown that he is able to put the ball where it needs to be on a consistent basis.  Also, the offensive line hasn’t given Anderson much protection at all, as previously mentioned.  At some point the Cardinals must figure out who butters the bread.  In the short term it appears that the running game is the best option, especially against Oakland.  The Raiders rank 29th (140 yards/game) in the NFL in rushing defense, though they drew the Titans’ Chris Johnson in Week 1.  In addition, throwing the ball against Oakland’s CBs, Asomugha and Johnson, who together comprise one of the best pair anywhere in the NFL, may not be the best game plan.  With the Cardinals passing game struggling to achieve consistency, it doesn’t seem wise to test such a talented pass defense, which currently ranks 5th in the NFL with only 137.5 yards allowed per game.  Look for the Cardinals to assert themselves upfront and control the tempo of the game on the ground.

Defense:

  • Stop RB Darren McFadden: This Oakland offense is pretty much all about Darren McFadden either running the ball or catching it out of the backfield.  McFadden is coming off a career performance last week against the Rams in which he rushed for 145 yards on 30 carries after rushing for 95 yards against the Titans the week before.  With the Oakland Raiders undecided between Campbell and Gradkowski at quarterback, in addition to a characteristically unproductive passing game, the Cardinals number one focus should be stopping McFadden.  The Raiders have been successful running the ball this season as they currently rank 3rd in the NFL with 154.3 yards rushing per game.  McFadden has gained 240 yards on 48 carries with no touchdowns in two games and there’s no reason to think that Oakland isn’t anxious to get him over 20 touches, especially considering the display Arizona’s run defense put on against Atlanta; ugly.
  • Reduce the Penalties: This goes for both sides of the ball and special teams, actually.  The Cardinals have already taken a special teams touchdown off the board in Atlanta.  It didn’t matter all that much in that game, but the trend must discontinue so as not to affect future production.  Countless holding penalties, two illegal procedure infractions in the span of about five minutes, and a number of unsportsmanlike conduct calls just can’t happen as a matter of course.  The Cardinals must clean it up and execute.

AccuScore Projection:

Cardinals 60% favorites over Raiders 40% underdogs

Cardinals Average Score: 20.6

Raiders Average Score: 17.2

Head to Head Since 2001: Cardinals have a 1-2 record.

October 22, 2006 – ARI 9 @ OAK 22

November 24, 2002 – OAK 41 @ ARI 20

December 2, 2001 – ARI 34 @ OAK 31

Raiders’ Notable Returning Personnel:

  • RB, Darren McFadden
  • WR, Darius Heyward-Bey
  • CB, Nnamdi Asomugha
  • TE, Zach Miller
  • DT, Richard Seymour
  • QB, Bruce Gradkowski

Raiders’ Notable Losses

  • QB, JaMarcus Russell
  • LB, Kirk Morrison
  • RB, Justin Fargas

Raiders’ Notable Additions

  • QB, Jason Campbell
  • QB, Kyle Boller
  • LB, Rolando McClain
  • DE, Lamarr Houston
  • RB, Rock Cartwright
  • RB, Michael Bennett

Raiders vs. Cardinals 2010 Rankings:

Raiders:

  • Passing Yards: 22nd (190.5 yards/game)
  • Rushing Yards: 3rd (154.5 yards/game)
  • Passing Yards Allowed: 5th (137.5 yards/game)
  • Rushing Yards Allowed: 29th (140.0 yards/game)

Cardinals:

  • Passing Yards: 18th (207.5 yards/game)
  • Rushing Yards: 13th (115 yards/game)
  • Passing Yards Allowed: 21st (231.5 yards/game)
  • Rushing Yards Allowed: 31st (153 yards/game)

Cardinals vs. Raiders 2010 Team Leaders:

Oakland Leaders:

  • Passing: Jason Campbell – 30/52, 267 yards, 1 TD
  • Rushing: Darren McFadden – 48 carries, 240 yards, 0 TDs
  • Receiving: Luis Murphy – 10 receptions, 119 yards, 1 TD

Arizona Leaders:

  • Passing: Derek Anderson – 39/72, 458 yards, 1 TD
  • Rushing: Tim Hightower – 24 carries, 169 yards, 2 TDs
  • Receiving: Larry Fitzgerald – 10 receptions, 126 yards, 1 TD
Raiders’ 2010 Season Outlook:

The Raiders seem to be trending in the right direction for a few simple reasons.  First, they actually drafted a player that can help them in Rolando McClain.  Second, they finally dumped JaMarcus Russell.  Finally, Darren McFadden seems to be putting it all together.  This franchise, however, is still a long way from competing.  They don’t have a quarterback to lead them, their offensive line is questionable, they don’t have a single wide receiver that’s proven he can carry the load all season long, and c’mon, they’re the Raiders.  They will spend another year in the AFC West cellar.


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