The Arizona Cardinals come to Oakland Saturday as the surprising No. 1 team in the NFC West.
The Cardinals are 4-1, are the third-ranked defense in the NFL against the run and have some dynamic playmakers, such as wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd and defensive end Calais Campbell.
At 0-5 and with an 11-game losing streak, the Raiders hardly seem like a team that could pull an upset Sunday at O.co Coliseum. Oakland, after all, hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record in 42 games, dating to Nov. 27, 2011. NFL oddsmakers have made the Cards 4-point favorites.
But there are a couple of silver linings for the Raiders, who are coming off their most explosive game of the season offensively.
First, the Raiders passing game may be able to take advantage of a Cardinals secondary that has been suspect through its first five games. And second, Oakland’s offensive line has been giving rookie quarterback Derek Carr time to throw. That combination may allow the Raiders to score, stay in the game – and perhaps pull out an upset late in the game if Arizona makes a mistake or two.
Carr, coming off a four-touchdown game against the Chargers, may be able to make some plays against the Arizona secondary, especially with receivers such as Andre Holmes, James Jones and Brice Butler playing well. According to NFL.com, Cardinals cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie have been very beatable this season. Quarterbacks have a 132.4 rating when targeting Peterson, who’s allowed four TD receptions; Cromartie has allowed a QB rating of 103.2.
And the Oakland blockers have been very protective of Carr. He's been sacked just three times. That, combined with his quick release, may give Carr time to go after Peterson and Cromartie for big gains.
Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson told reporters this week the protection, avoiding sacks and getting the ball out quickly have been points of emphasis for the offense.
“It’s everybody together,” he said. “Running backs, offensive line, the qurterback getting the ball out, wide receivers knowing when to break off the route and sight adjust or look hot. I think everyone’s involved in that and it’s encouraging. I think that’s one of the encouraging things that we’ve seen and it’s really encouraging when you have a young quarterback.”
The Raiders may be forced to throw, because running against Arizona has been very tough. Arizona is giving up just 75.8 yards per game on the ground.