The Raiders and Cardinals seem to share the same glaring weakness and it's lack of pass protection by the offensive line. Who can exploit this weakness and maybe more importantly who can protect themselves from their lack of protection will decide who is victorious in this contest.
What Matchups Can Be Exploited
Cardinals Offensive Line vs. The Raiders Defensive Line
The Cardinals have to give Derek Anderson enough time to throw to his talented WRs. To do this they are going to have to get improved play from their Tackles.
Derek Anderson has been sacked four times and the Cards are fourth in the NFL with 13 QB hits allowed.
The Raiders Defensive Line has done a solid job of generating pressure on the QB. They will likely look to get pressure from their D-Lineman, which will allow them to keep extra men back to cover the Cardinals dangerous WRs.
Raiders Offensive Line vs. Cardinals Pass Rush
The Cardinals are the first 3-4 team the Raiders have faced and they can get pressure from different areas. Both of the Cardinals DE's, Cailis Campbell and Darnell 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.
This means the Raiders and their new starting QB, Bruce Gradkowski, 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.
The Matchups To Watch
Both teams will be able to go a long way to limiting their liabilities in pass protection, if the can get the run games going. The Cardinals have big play capability in the backfield. This was evident by Tim Hightower's 80-yard TD run in Week Two.
The Raiders while looking vastly improved in run defense, have still shown over the course of the pre-season and Week One, that they are susceptible to giving up long TD runs. If the Cardinals can get something going on the ground and break of a long run or two, it will take the attention of the Defensive Linemen off the passer. It will also put point on the board in a game where points may be at a premium.
The Raiders come in with the NFL's second leading rusher in Darren McFadden and they may also have the services of RB Michael Bush. Bush has been participating fully in practice this week and should be a game time decision.
The Cardinals were gashed in the run game in their blowout loss to the Falcons and they will need to fix those problems quickly, if they hope to slow down the suddenly imposing Oakland Raiders rushing attack.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Nnamdi Asomugha
Any play that these two players go head-to-head, they deserve a TV camera to themselves. Considered by most to be in the top two of their respective positions, matchups don't get any better than this.
Larry Fitzgerald comes into the game second in the NFL with 24 passes thrown in his direction. Asomugha has not seen a pass come in his direction yet. Something has to give.