We have almost completed the opponent breakdown series where we have been taking a look at each of the teams on the Raiders upcoming 2018 season schedule. Next up is the Week 11 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals are a team going through a major transition, so much so that it’s hard to say how much trust anybody should have in them. With the retirement of coach Bruce Arians the team promises to look completely different than it has the last few years. New head coach Steve Wilks is a defensive minded head coach compared to Arians offensive guru mentality so they decided to go in a completely opposite direction from the Arians era.
Wilks had been the defensive backs coach under Panthers coach Ron Rivera until he was promoted to Carolina’s defensive coordinator for one year before getting the head coach gig in Arizona. In a surprise move, despite having a coach who has mostly been a secondary coach the Cardinals decided to let the Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu go this off-season. They do still have shutdown corner Patrick Peterson for Wilks to work as the star of the defense, along with aging but still capable star WR Larry Fitzgerald and superstar running back David Johnson on offense.
Key Additions: QB Josh Rosen (1st round draft pick), QB Sam Bradford, QB Mike Glennon, OT Andre Smith, OT Justin Pugh, WR Brice Butler, CB Marcus Williams, CB Bene Benwikere
Key Departures: QB Blaine Gabbert, QB Drew Stanton, TE Troy Niklas, S Tyrann Mathieu, WR Jaron Brown, WR John Brown, DE Frostee Rucker, DT Xavier Williams, CB Tramon Williams, T Jared Veldheer
NFL.com Power Poll
2017 Total Offense: 22nd at 314.1 yards per game, scoring offense 25th at 18.4 PPG
2017 Total Defense: 6th at 310.9 yards per game, scoring defense 19th at 22.6 PPG
Larry Fitzgerald vs Raiders secondary: It’s straight up astounding how Larry Fitzgerald continues to play so well despite being on the verge of turning 35. He moved inside to the slot position to further his career and it has been a brilliant move for him, the Raiders will have their hands full with him there. Fitzgerald’s veteran moves are hard to cover in the slot, Oakland keeping him in check will go a long way in defeating the Cardinals.
David Johnson vs Raiders defense: You have to put vs the entire defense with RB David Johnson because he can hurt you anywhere with his legs or his receiving ability. The Raiders have been notoriously bad for years at covering dual threat running backs, just look at the lack of stops on ex Chiefs star Jamaal Charles for examples. Johnson is just as big of a threat and it will take multiple defenders to keep him from running rampant, the Raiders of past would not match up well against him so hopefully they are better prepared this year.
Amari Cooper vs Patrick Peterson: Despite the poor season last year for Amari Cooper he is the Raiders top receiver and will be blanketed by all-world CB Patrick Peterson. Peterson is the type of defender to be able to take even the best receivers out of the game, but if the Raiders can get some big plays on him it would trickle down through the entire Cardinals defense. In a street fight taking out the baddest guy is key, and Peterson is the baddest guy on the Cardinals team. With Gruden in town promising to use Cooper extensively in his game planning it will be huge if the Raiders can find success with Cooper over the top of Peterson in this one.
The Cardinals are a team in total transition that makes it extremely hard to guess what they are capable of but there is absolutely the chance that this will be a throw away year for them while they adjust to their new reality. The Raiders don’t play them until Week 11 so much of the surprise will be gone by then so we will have a much better idea of their chances later on.
Looking at it now in the off-season though this looks like a very winnable game for the Raiders, it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals being a good team this year with how much change they have going on. Then again they are probably saying that about the Raiders. It will come down to how productive David Johnson is in this game most likely, he is the Cardinals wild card. If the Raiders can shut him down then they should have an excellent chance in Week 11 against Arizona.