The Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals face off at 4:15 p.m. EST on Sunday in the desert. This matchup looks to be a fun filled affair between two teams who’ll be spending the entire season fighting for a playoff spot. The Raiders are coming off a close home victory verses the Rams, in which their running game flourished for the second straight week, while their passing game did little to impress. Coach Tom Cable pulled QB Jason Campbell in favor of backup Bruce Gradkowski. All indications point to this being the best move by a Raiders head coach since Jon Gruden decided to leave Oakland. Gradkowski isn’t a game changer by any means, but he’s a significant improvement from Campbell, and he filled in quite nicely for JaMarcus No Hustle last season. In the running game, Darren McFadden has finally begun to play some football. Compared to Adrian Peterson on draft day by many NFL scouts, McFadden’s 2008 rookie year was disappointing, as his inability to run up the middle was glaring and his work ethic was heavily criticized by then coach Lane Kiffin. But now in his 3rd year in the league, RUN DMC is showing that a little bit of patience is all that’s needed. Last week he torched the Rams for 145 rushing yards on 30 carries. His efforts alone have given the Raiders a formidable rushing attack to rely on (ranked 3rd in the league). The Cardinals could have trouble containing the Raiders ground game this week. Their defense ranks 31st against the run, giving up an average of 153 yds/ game so far.
The Cardinals offense looks lost without Kurt Warner at quarterback. Derek Anderson’s accuracy has been poor and in two games he’s shown an inability to protect the football (2 INT and 3 fumbles). Ken Whisenhunt gave him a vote of confidence this week after benching him for Max Hall versus the Falcons, but it’s only a matter of time before Hall is named the starter. The Cardinals running game has been okay, but it looks to get better this week with the return of Beanie Wells. Tim Hightower’s play hasn’t been as good as his numbers reveal. He broke an 80 yard TD run last week, but other than that he managed only 35 yards on 10 carries. His strengths are in the passing game, and the Cardinals will get a boost as Wells can run downhill as good as any back in the league.
The Cardinals defense looks to bounce back from an embarrassing showing in Atlanta on Sunday. They gave up 41 points and looked completely out matched. You can bet that coach Whisenhunt will get more out of the defense this week. In recent years, Arizona’s defensive play making ability has been one of the cornerstones of their success. The loss of Safety Antrel Role to the Giants has hurt them so far this season. Matt Ryan and the Falcons wide outs had a field day last week. Arizona’s secondary should be better this week, with the focal point of the Raiders offense centering on the running game.
Raiders vs Cardinals Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Oakland Raiders +4.5
@ Arizona Cardinals -4.5
Oakland Raiders (+175)
Arizona Cardinals (-210)
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Raiders vs Cardinals Predictions for Week 3:
Spread Prediction (Top Play): The key to this game lies in turnovers. Neither offense is better than average; we know the Raiders running game is performing well, but Gradkowski is prone to turnovers. Sunday afternoon will be a tough and loud environment for Oakland to be in, and if the Cardinals want a win, they’ll have to get some strong play from their defense. The Raiders pass defense looks good so far this year, and it’ll be interesting to see how often Larry Fitzgerald lines up against All Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha. The Cardinals home field advantage will certainly play a factor, but I like the Raiders secondary and running game to keep this one close. The Cardinals were embarrassed last week and will be looking for redemption, but the Raiders have what it takes to play a good road game. Take the points in this one. Raiders +4.5
Game Total Prediction: This game has all the makings for a low scoring affair. Neither team has scored more than 17 points in their first 2 games. The over/under is a low 39.5, but I like this one to stay under the number. Both offenses will be aiming to run the ball as their passing games have been stagnant. There won’t be enough time left in this one to hit the over. The under is the smart play here. Prediction = UNDER 39.5 Points
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