Crossing That .500 Barrier

Red rover, red rover send Darren...Damn it!

Feeling the positive vibrations of a win that elevated this team to .500, we are all ready for the next victims. Bring on the St. Louis Cardinals.

What's that? The Raiders just played St. Louis? No, no they just played Los Angeles. You know, the Rams.

The Rams are in St. Louis? So, you're telling me St. Louis has two teams and Los Angeles has zero? That's crazy. ...Oh they are in Arizona. Damn, this is confusing.

Who cares, location is not that important. What is important is shutting down the ever dangerous Cardinal, Albert Pujols. That guy is a beast.

What's that? Wrong sport. Ah hell, I am all confused. Let's try this again.

The Raiders travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals in a battle for 2-1. With the Raiders next two games coming against the offensive juggernaut Texans and the stupid Chargers, 2-1 is a world away from 1-2. 

Hope for a victory in this game can be found all over the place. Like, Dancing with the Stars. Kurt Warner has traded in his helmet for a ballroom gown. Which is almost as funny looking as Derek Anderson dressed like a clown in Warner's huge shoes.

It's not all good signs I am afraid. The Cardinals started off the season on a two game road trip, which makes this their home opener. After getting throttled 41-7 by the Falcons last week, I am sure the Cardinals are anxious to play in their familiar surroundings and get a fresh start.

This leads to the next sign. The blowout bounce back factor. The Cardinals have grown used to winning. Last year they did not suffer back-to-back losses. Unless the Cardinals are going to be a train wreck this year, that blowout will be a wakeup call. Ask Darnel Docket. Docket:

One thing I know about is fights. We're not where we think we are, so today was probably good for us. Everybody on this team can do a better job.

Head Coach Ken Wisenhut also knows a home opener against the Raiders is his a chance to get things righted. Wisenhut:

I know the perception out there right now is not the greatest, but listen - we're excited about showing you we can be a good football team, and that's what our focus is going to be.

Conversely, the Raiders haven't won back-to-back games since 200forever-ago. These are likely big factors with the betting public as the Raiders are getting 4-4.5 points with an over under between 39-40.

Of course, there are reasons the Cards looked horrible last week. They are kinda horrible. Still, both teams have suffered one blowout and both teams had close victories against the mighty Rams. 

The Match-Ups:

These Are For The Birds:

Cardinals WRs vs. Raiders DBs

Larry Fitzgerald missed the end of pre-season with a sprained MCL and was less then a 100 percent in Week One. Reportedly, in Week Two, he was near or at 100 percent. I don't think I need to waste any superlatives on Larry's ability. Derek Anderson certainly knows. Fitz is second in the NFL with 27 passes thrown his direction. He has, however, only caught 10 of them.

Broken Record Alert! Put Nnam on the team's #1 WR please. I think all NFL fans want to see this. The best of the best head-to-head. The guy the QB always throws to vs. the QB no one throws at.

Heaven save the Raiders if they play any zones and expect Tyvon Branch to guard Fitz.

Fitzgerald is not alone. Steve Breaston is a solid #2 WR and he also has 10 catches. If the Raiders decide to move Nnam around or not, this is going to be the first real test for Stanford Routt 2.0.

No other Cardinals WR or TE has more than two receptions.

Cardinals Pass Rush vs. Raiders Pass Protection

I'm not going to lie. I'd put this match-up in favor of every other team in the NFL right now and maybe a couple of UFL teams. The Cardinals certainly have a decent pass rush.

They will be the first 3-4 team that the Raiders face. We will see how Langston Walker handles the speedier outside rushers, how Jared Veldheer handles some of the blitzes and how Mario Henderson can mess up this week. Also, not helping the blitz recognition potential, is the fact that I think it is highly unlikely Gallery plays.

Both of the Cardinals DE's, Cailis Campbell and Dockett, are able to put pressure on the QB as well as OLB's Clark Haggans and Joey Porter. The Cardinals are also not afraid to send in Adrian Wilson on Safety blitzes.

Killing Two Birds With One Stone:

Raiders Run O vs. Cardinals Run D

Don't look now, but the Raiders have a rushing offense. Michael Bush will likely be a game time decision and it would be nice, if for nothing else, than to take some of the burden off Darren McFadden. Let's hope McFadden is recovering well from his 30 carries. Last game McFadden played after getting 30 carries...oh wait, it's never happened before. 

The Cardinals are giving up 153 yards a game rushing on 4.4 yards per carry. While the departure of ILB, Carlos Dansby, certainly accounts for some of the woes in the run game, Cardinals fans will be quick to tell you that, ILB Gerald Hayes currently occupying the PUP list, is a bigger loss in the run game.

Combine this with the fact that, the LB's aren't getting any help from the D-line and you have a team struggling to stop the run.

According to Football Outsiders, the Cards D-line is only stuffing 10 percent of the run plays, which ranks them 29th in the league. They are being exploited on outside runs, which could play right into McFadden's swift feet. Even more precisely FO ranks their D-line 31st to runs at or outside the right offensive tackle.

They have also been beat right up the middle, where they have Bryan Robinson sharing time with rookie Dan Williams at NT. Williams has apparently shown flashes of good play and rookie mistakes. 

Raiders Pass Rush vs. Cardinals Pass Protection

The Cardinals are not happy with the play of their Tackles or their offensive line in general. Derek Anderson has been sacked four times and hit 13. The 13 hits are the fourth most in the league. This is no doubt attributing to his 66.8 QB rating. Well that and his lack of ability.

The Cardinal On The Raiders Shoulder (match-ups to keep an eye on)

Raiders WRs vs. Cardinals DBs

CB Dominick Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the best cover guys in the league. Much like the Raiders, the Cardinals don't typically have him shadow a particular WR. They are still in need of a solid #2 CB to pair with him. Then again, having SS Adrian Wilson at your back helps any CB. 

Still, teams have been able to exploit the Cardinals pass defense with WR's. 60 percent of the Rams completions were to WR's and 57 percent of the Falcons completions were to WR's. The Raiders will need to keep DHB and Murph rolling.

Penalties

The Cardinals are making a run at the Raiders throne of most penalized team. They have amassed 20 penalties for 181 yards. Last week FS, Kerry Rhodes, earned a a quick trip to the showers with two personal foul penalties. 

The Raiders have an impressive 22 penalties for a measly 167 yards.

How To Leave Happy

The Cardinals have big play ability. They have it at WR and RB. Tim Hightower broke off an 80-yard run last week and we all now how the Raiders like to watch speedy running backs blast through them. The Cardinals may or may not have the services of Beanie Wells next week. Wells is a big play threat running and catching. The Raiders need to make the Cardinals earn their yards.

With both teams struggles on the offensive line, protection will be key. If the Raiders can generate solid pressure with just the d-lineman this will help limit the exposure of the Raiders safeties to the Cards dangerous WR's.

If the Cardinals don't do a better job of stopping the run this week, none of this will matter. The Raiders need to keep that run game churning.

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