Raiders vs Cardinals
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

 

New FSM Game Preview: Raiders vs Cardinals – Week 2

Las Vegas Raiders (0-1) | Arizona Cardinals (0-1)

Franchise Sports Media

 

The Raiders look to bounce back from a tough Week 1 loss in L.A. They welcome the Arizona Cardinals to Allegiant Stadium for their home opener in front of Raider Nation.

 

Raiders vs Cardinals
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Week 1’s narrow loss to the Chargers is now in the books, and the Silver & Black have returned to Sin City for their 2022 home opener! Admittedly, most of the buzz here in Southern Nevada right now surrounds the WNBA’s Aces as they near a pro sports championship in Las Vegas! But hey, let’s be honest, September is football season.

Making the short trip across the Sonoran Desert, the Arizona Cardinals will match up with the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium, as both sides are eager to get in the win column. After this week, only one NFL franchise in the Southwestern United States will be left without a victory.

With the Raiders‘ frustrations on full display last weekend (porous offensive line, missed throws from Derek Carr, etc.), the Cardinals are also looking to shake off an opening week loss; Arizona was torched by the visiting Chiefs and “Megaman” Mahomes for 44 points and nearly 500 yards from scrimmage. Now coming into NFL Week 2, Carr and the offense should be salivating like a pit bull eyeing a T-bone steak to get their shot at the Cardinals’ defense, especially if Arizona is again without All-Pro J.J. Watt.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Raiders defense will have their hands full attempting to contain the hyper-dynamic Kyler Murray. Although the Raiders and Cardinals have faced off ten times throughout their respective histories (since 1973, with the Raiders winning six of those games), the Silver & Black have never played against Murray. Sure, he is still without his number one receiver (DeAndre Hopkins) for a few more weeks, but Murray’s raw speed and agility create the potential for any play to be the big one.

Naturally, the athleticism of defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones when containing Murray will be paramount, along with spy efforts from rangy-will backer Divine Deablo. Also, I imagine Jones is a little extra motivated to hit a few of his old teammates on the Cards. With that said, the sportsbooks have the Raiders showing as early favorites against Arizona; To me, that seems right, as I feel Las Vegas can win this contest by two scores.

With the 53-man rosters set and ready to go (the Raiders have since sought out OL help after surrendering six sacks last week), let’s dive into the home opener preview against the Cardinals and explore a few keys to the game, along with the injury and weather forecasts.

 

Previous contests

 

HOF game: Raiders 27 – Jaguars 11
PRE1: Raiders 26 – Vikings 20
PRE2: Raiders 15 – Dolphins 13

PRE3: Raiders 23 – Patriots 6

WK1: Chargers 24-Raiders 19 (L)

 

KEYS TO THE GAME:

 

Containing Kyler

 

Raiders vs Cardinals
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Among the most dynamic athletes in all professional sports, Kyler Murray has somewhat morphed into an enigma. The former Heisman winner from Oklahoma may not look the most imposing (standing under 5’10”). Still, his quick release and even faster feet are enough to keep opposing defensive coordinators awake through the night.

Of course, since Kyler and the Cardinals fired off seven straight victories to start the 2021 season, Arizona has gone 4-8, including an abysmal playoff showing that resulted in a first-round elimination. Then, more recently, the “study clause” in Murray’s contract went public. In last Sunday’s loss to Kansas City, Kyler completed 22/34 passes for two touchdowns and 193 yards, rushing for 29 yards: That’s respectable, but not his most electric day.

Regardless of trends, Murray is the type of quarterback that must be kept in the pocket for an opposing defense to have a chance. We’ve all seen what he can do when improvisation takes over; K1 has breakaway speed and throws the ball accurately on the run. The Raiders will call upon their two premiere defensive ends (Crosby & Jones) to hold outside contain on the shifty QB. With an extensive wingspan and reach, this would be an excellent week for Crosby to remind us of his nickname. Also, look for Johnathan Abram to play a pivotal role.

Up the middle, DTs Bilal Nichols and Andrew Billings will need to squeeze down and grab a firm grasp on any red jersey that attempts to breach through. Additionally, I see linebacker Divine Deablo serving a significant role against Arizona’s offense, both in coverage and spying on Murray. Remember, DeAndre Hopkins is still serving a suspension, so expect Hollywood Brown and Zach Ertz to be the feature targets this Sunday. I anticipate Deablo and Ertz to have their fair share of battles. Note: Like J.J. Watt, Ertz is also nursing a calf injury.

 

Commitment to the run-game

 

Raiders vs Cardinals
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Last week in L.A., the Raiders’ ground attack never had the chance to develop; Down by multiple scores relatively early in the game, the Silver & Black offense employed a pass-first emphasis. At the end of the day, the Raiders rushed the ball 13 times (ten by Jacobs, three by Bolden) for 64 yards as a team. For a Josh McDaniels-led team, those numbers usually will not result in wins.

Naturally, Las Vegas would love to get ahead of Arizona early before relying on their playmakers in the backfield. Sure, the offensive line is working through its issues, but I do think this unit is more proficient at blocking in the run game compared to their pass protection.

With the talent the Raiders have in their running back room (including Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, and Brittain Brown), their personnel is built to take chunk runs before sucking the opposing defense in with play-action. With pass-catchers like Adams and Waller sure to draw double coverages, that slight anticipation of a run will have them scoring touchdowns of 30+ yards. Remember, on offense, one hand should always wash the other.

 

Keep Carr confident

 

Raiders vs Cardinals
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Against an explosive defense, Derek Carr did well to keep the Raiders in the game for most of the day. Of course, his fourth-quarter turnovers were the straw to break the camel’s back last Sunday. Although Carr’s second and third interceptions were due to missed throws/timing, he was constantly battered by old-teammate Khalil Mack (who whipped Kolton Miller all game en route to three sacks) and his new friends.

Naturally, Carr cannot block for himself, but getting the ball out of his hands more rapidly will serve Raider Nation well. Against the Chargers, Carr’s lower half looked relatively stagnant; He’ll need to trust his legs more this season, even if it’s only to find a different receiver off a broken route.

On the defensive side for Arizona, Carr will need to cue on All-Pro safety Budda Baker. In his sixth season out of UDub, Baker is one of the most complete safeties in the NFL; He can cover WRs and TEs like a cornerback and tackles like an outside linebacker. However, the defensive line for Arizona is a tier or two down from the Chargers’ unit, which should transition into more pocket time for Carr.

Keep in mind: Last week against Kansas City, Arizona logged no sacks on Mahomes. Also, former-3x DPOY J.J. Watt is still listed day-to-day with an ailing calf, which is more good news for DC4. I don’t anticipate seeing Watt on the field in Vegas on Sunday. Health and longevity have not been his strong suit over the latter part of his career.

 

Coaching matchup

 

For the second time in as many weeks, I’d give the coaching edge to Josh McDaniels and his staff in Las Vegas. Currently, McDaniels has always orchestrated his actions as an NFL coach should: With control. Coach Kingsbury, who had quite an impressive playing career at Texas Tech, has seemed immature in his current post at times, publicly feuding with his starting quarterback. Still, the Cards have shown positive flashes on offense under Kingsbury-Murray, but it seems evident that something is amiss with that relationship. As for who is calling Arizona’s offensive plays, I’m really not sure anymore. So yes, edge to McDaniels and co.

 

INJURY REPORT:

Below are Thursday’s (Sept. 15) practice participation sheets for the Raiders and Cardinals …

Las Vegas – RB Brandon Bolden (DNP – Hamstring), CB Nate Hobbs (Full – Back), C Andre James (DNP – Concussion), S Tre’Von Moehrig (DNP – Hip), LB Denzel Perryman (DNP – Ankle), CB Sam Webb (Limited – Ankle)

Arizona – TE Zach Ertz (Full – Calf), WR Andy Isabella (DNP – Back), WR Rondale Moore (DNP – Hamstring), S Jalen Thompson (DNP – Toe), DE J.J. Watt (Limited – Calf), CB Travon Mullen Jr. (Limited – Toe), OG Justin Pugh (Limited – Neck), CB Marco Wilson (Full – Ankle)

 

WEATHER REPORT:

 

The Death Star (aka Allegiant Stadium) is a covered venue and climate-controlled. Outside on the streets of Paradise, Nevada, Sunday’s weather will reflect that namesake: 86 degrees and sunny.

 

The Raiders will head home to Allegiant Stadium for their 2022 Regular Season home opener against their neighbors to the Southeast, the Arizona Cardinals. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18. at 1:25 pm and can be seen locally on Fox 5 (local radio play-by-play on RNR AM920).

 

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-Gabe Santiago – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Gabe on Twitter & Instagram at @gps_onthemic

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