Raiders hoping to avoid letdown against Arizona

The Raiders are 13-point favorites to beat the visiting Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, but Rich Gannon is having none of it. Oakland's quarterback says he and his teammates need only to reflect back on their recent past to know they can ill afford to take the Cardinals lightly.

It was just three weeks ago when the Raiders, riding high on a five-game winning streak, rolled into Seattle looking like world-beaters only to be handed a humbling 34-27 setback by the Seahawks. Oakland recovered well enough from that loss and have won two straight to increase their lead to 2 1/2 games in the AFC West. But the Cardinals, who opened the season with six losses in their first eight games, have also won their last two games, including a 20-17 upset of the Chargers last week in San Diego. Gannon says it's important the Raiders maintain a level-headed approach to the game, even when everyone else is looking at the match-up as a potential blowout. ''I would say certainly there are concerns when you play a team that maybe on paper you should be favored to win,'' said Gannon. ''For me, that's always a red light, a big concern because you're always worri4ed about a letdown from a standpoint of preparation during the course of the week. You don't ever want to get into a game with a football team and then realize in the third quarter that this is a team that's come to play and we haven't played our best and now it's time to turn it on. Sometimes it's too late. ''I hope that we learned our lesson in Seattle. We went up to Seattle and did not play our best football, got behind early and were never able to come back. It was a game we were favored to win, a game on paper thast we should have won but didn't win. It's very much the same situation this week.'' The Raiders have more than the oddsmakers in their corner for Sunday's game. Oakland has the NFL's longest active home winning streak, having won 10 straight at Networks Associates Coliseum. They also have the league's second-highest scoring offense to go along with the top-rated passer in Gannon. On Thursday, Gannon was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November after completing 67 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns with just one interception. Overall, Gannon has completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,324 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. The Raiders are also jockeying for a playoff berth as well as possible homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. At 8-2, Oakland is tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the best record in the AFC. The Steelers actually have the edge in the homefield advantage race based on conference records, though Pittsburgh has played two more AFC games than Oakland. More than 15,000 tickets remained unsold for Sunday's game, meaning another local blackout in the Bay Area.

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