Raiders-Cardinals Preview

In Week 3, the Raiders travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. The Cardinals are in a transition phase as they are moving on with new quarterback Derek Anderson. The Raiders face a challenge against bruising running back Tim Hightower and with the potential return of his running mate Beanie Wells.

GAME INFO

-- In Week 3, the Raiders travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals.

-- Kickoff is set for 1:15pm PT. Game time temperature is predicated at 77 degrees Fahrenheit inside University of Phoenix Stadium. The temperature outside is predicated at 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

-- The game will be broadcast on CBS. The broadcast team will be Spero Dedes and Randy Cross.

-- The Raiders are going for their second win in a row, after beating the St. Louis Rams last week in Oakland, 16-14.

-- The Raiders have not won two games in a row since the conclusion of the 2008 season, beating the Houston Texans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final two games.

-- Both teams are coming into the game with a record of 1-1. -- In their season opener, the Cardinals beat the Rams 17-13. Last week, they were dominated by the Atlanta Falcons, 41-7. Third string running back Jason Snelling paved the way for the Falcons, running for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. -- The Raiders lead the all-time series record at 5-2. -- The last time these two teams faced each other was in Week 7 of the 2006 season. The Raiders won at home, 22-9. The Raiders defense shutdown the Cardinals, allowing only 224 total yards and nine first downs to the Raiders 21. The Cardinals managed their nine points on three Neil Rackers field goals.

-- Ken Whisenhunt is the head coach of the Cardinals. He is in his fourth year as head coach and has compiled a record of 27-21. He took the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008. This will be his first game against the Raiders.

-- Sunday's game will be Tom Cable's 31st as head coach of the Raiders. That is the most for a Raiders coach since Norv Turner's 32 games from 2004 to 2005.

INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS

-- For the Raiders:

Out: G Robert Gallery (hamstring), LB Travis Goethel (back), WR Chaz Schilens (knee).

Questionable: FS Hiram Eugene (hamstring), DT John Henderson (foot), CB Chris Johnson (neck, ankle), CB Walter McFadden (hamstring).

Probable LB Ricky Brown (hamstring), RB Michael Bush (thumb), DE Richard Seymour (hamstring).

-- For the Cardinals:

Out: WR Early Doucet (groin).

Questionable: WR Steve Breaston (knee), OLB Will Davis (head), G Alan Faneca (back).

Probable S Hamza Abdullah (hamstring), OLB Clark Haggans (heel), DE Kenny Iwebema (knee).

RAIDERS OFFENSE VS CARDINALS DEFENSE

Last week, the Cardinals had an embarrassing performance against the Falcons. Led by third string running back Jason Snelling, the Hawks ran for 221 yards against the Cardinals 3-4 scheme. On the year, Arizona is allowing the second most rushing yards per game at 153. That all should be great news for Darren McFadden, who is second in the NFL in rushing yards. The offensive line has done a good job in the running game, opening up holes for McFadden and company. The offense should get a boost if Bush is good to go. He's listed as probable and there's a good chance he'll get some carries. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders will split the carries between the two. Right now, McFadden should get most of the carries, but Bush's power running should be a force in short yardage situations.

Of course, the biggest news is the quarterback switch from Jason Campbell to Bruce Gradkowski. Head Coach Tom Cable made the announcement on Wednesday thereby clearing any confusion heading into Sunday.

Gradkowski is in there for two reasons: he puts up points and is a motivating presence in the huddle and on the sidelines. But what's more, Gradkowski understands the offense and how to operate within it, despite its limitations.

Poor pass protection makes Campbell a sitting duck in the pocket. Gradkowski does a superior job in getting the ball out quickly. He'll have to do an even quicker job, going up against the Cardinals 3-4 scheme. Arizona will want force the Raiders into a one-dimensional game, and as it stands, the best way to go about it is to come heavy on the pass rush.

The strength of the Arizona defense is definitely the secondary: Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes make up one of the better safety duos in the league and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has played himself into one of the best corners in the league.

The onus will be on the receivers to find the open spaces in the field and give Gradkowski quick and easy targets to throw to.

The secret is out on McFadden, who is looking like a different running back in his third year in the league.

Advantage: EVEN

RAIDERS DEFENSE VS CARDINALS OFFENSE

Derek Anderson will supposedly be under a short leash. He has struggled to get in the flow of things, specifically in the accuracy department. Last week on third downs, Anderson was just one of nine on pass completions on third and fourth downs, including an interception.

Backing him up will be rookie and former BYU Cougar, Max Hall. Even with Larry Fitzgerald, the biggest challenge the Raiders will face will be running back Tim Hightower. Against the Falcons, Hightower rushed for 115 yards on only 11 carries—an average of 10.5 yards per carry. Hightower did have an 80-yard run in that game also, but he is a power back.

The big news will be the comeback of Beanie Wells. Wells has missed the first two games with a bruised knee and he's expected to see a good number of carries come his way. With Hightower and Wells, two big backs, the Cardinals like to pound the ball and play a physical game.

The big matchup will be on the outside between Nnamdi Asomugha and Larry Fitzgerald. It's not too often you get a matchup as marquee as this one. Fitzgerald will no doubt get his catches but Asomugha should be locked on him from the get-go.

The Cardinals are also without Steve Breaston and Early Doucet.

Advantage: RAIDERS

SPECIAL TEAMS

34-year old Jay Feely is in his first year with the Cardinals. So far he is one for two on his field goal attempts. He also handles kickoffs for the Cardinals.

Ben Graham is in his third season in Arizona. On the year, he has 11 punts averaging 43.8 yards and a long of 62.

Kick returns are handled primarily by LaRod Stephens-Howling. He has eight returns on the year for 173 yards.

Max Komar has five punt returns for only 31 yards, so this week rookie Andre Roberts will be handling those duties.

Advantage: RAIDERS

OUTCOME

Perhaps I'm viewing the world the Silver and Black glasses, but it's still strange to give the Raiders two out three in advantages against an above average team in the Cardinals.

Sunday officially marks the start of the Bruce Gradkowski era as the team's official starter. At the expense of sounding like a broken record, it's all going to come down to how much time Gradkowski will have in the pocket. He does well with little, but expect the Cardinals to bump it up a notch.

On defense, Derek Anderson cannot beat the Raiders. This is especially true with Breaston and Doucet out and if Asomugha can contain Fitzgerald (to a degree). The Cardinals will want to keep it run heavy, so look for defensive coordinator John Marshall to stack the box.

PREDICTION:

RAIDERS, 19-17.

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