Oakland Raiders (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS), 4:15 p.m. EST, NFL Week 3, Sunday, September 26, 2010, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
by Scott L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Oak +4/AZ 4
Over/Under Total: 39.5
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The Oakland Raiders travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps over the past several seasons, we have been conditioned to think of the Cardinals as being in a different league than the Raiders, but the gap has been narrowed considerably. The maligned Raiders have shown signs that they are a rising young team, especially on defense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals look to have lost the mojo that had them in the Super Bowl a few years ago.
While the Cardinals managed a road win in their season opener against lowly St. Louis, they were put in their place in an embarrassing 41-7 loss at Atlanta. Its been tough going for Arizona. Losing Kurt Warner was costlyfrom both a quarterbacking and leadership angle. When Matt Leinart didnt pan out in the pre-season, Derek Anderson was shoehorned into the top spot.
From a defensive point of view, the losses of standouts Carlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle appear to have hurt even more than was originally feared. The dicey Arizona run defense has already given up 306 yards, including an eye-popping 129 to Atlanta fullback Jason Snelling. Their pass defense hasnt done much better, giving up 253 yards to Sam Bradford in his debut and allowing Falcons QB Matt Ryan to pretty much have his way last Sunday with 3 touchdown passes.
Arizona needs to find the silver lining and build on it. Fortunately, there is some hope, particularly with Timothy Hightower. The dynamic ball carrier has averaged 7 yards per rush and scored two touchdowns. While they miss the physical presence of Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston have each already caught ten passes. If Derek Anderson can be a bit more consistent, this team still has the offensive weapons to make some noise.
The Raiders also claim the St. Louis Rams as their only victims, with their other game being an embarrassing loss to the Titans. So far, all we know about these teams is that they can beat the Rams. The Raiders were slightly less impressive in their victory, only nipping the Rams at home, while failing to cover the spread. With a more established quarterback in Jason Campbell at the helm in addition to a maturing squad around him, more is expected from a Raiders team that has been awful for quite a while. Time will tell, but this defense has a lot of upside. Sure, Tennessee RB Chris Johnson ran wild on them, but theres no shame in that. Credit must be given to a Raiders secondary, which was 7th last season in yards against and is already fifth after two games.
Despite inconsistent play at quarterback, 4 different Raiders have caught at least 7 passes. Having a multi-pronged passing attack will pay dividends when they get it dialed in properly. But RB Darren McFadden has been the surprise so far for the Raiders, providing stability while carrying a big workload. Last week, he rushed for 145 yards on 30 rushes. He really seems like a new player this year. If Arizonas run defense doesnt make some improvements from last week, McFadden could be looking at another big game.
With two road games behind them, the Cardinals finally get to open at home and there should be a gust of wind in their sails as they take the field against the Raiders. You have to extend some benefit of the doubt to coach Ken Whisenhunt, as he has really showed his worth by turning this forever-suffering franchise into a winner. It just doesnt seem like the same team, does it? Arizona will whip their act together at some point, but right nowthey are still trying to find their way and filling in huge gaps left by retirement and free agency.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Despite Arizonas predicament, they are still at home against a Raiders team that has provided zero proof that they are ready for primetime. The Oakland defense, however, will be playing very physically and Jason Campbell is due to have at least a decent game. I think Oakland surprises a bit here, either winning the game outright or at least covering the spread. Take the points and the Oakland Raiders.