By Charles Jay

When: 10:00 PM ET, Saturday, August 10, 2017

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ

Betting Line: Cardinals -3 Total: 40

 

The Oakland Raiders made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but couldn't deal with the Houston Texans in the AFC wild card game in what was a battle of backup quarterbacks. David Carr had a season that was worthy of MVP consideration, and management has tried to put some more weaponry at his disposal. Still, the big news the Raiders made in the off-season was the announcement of their intention to move to Las Vegas, which would probably happen in time for the 2020 season.

The Arizona Cardinals got to the NFC title game two seasons ago, but they had to win their last two games to get to 7-8-1 by the end of the 2016 campaign. Carson Palmer had a monster season in '15, but his numbers regressed greatly last year. However, the Cards made a discovery with running back David Johnson, carved up enemy defenses on his way to the Pro Bowl. They are looking to make some adjustments, particularly on special teams, as they say jettisoned Chandler Catanzaro.

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ABOUT THE RAIDERS:  Oakland finished 12-4 last season, which tied them for first place in the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs, but they lost the tie-breaker because the Chiefs won both meetings. All of it was pretty moot, because the Raiders had to go into the will card game without David Carr, who had broken a fibula, or Matt McGloin, who was also injured. That left Connor Cook at the helm in his first NFL start. So naturally the main concern in the pre-season is to keep Carr - who signed a huge contract - healthy, while getting some him some work. Cook returns as one of his backups, along with EJ Manuel, a first-round washout with Buffalo. As far as the other big news, Marshawn Lynch will make his Raiders' debut. He'll head up the backfield, hoping to get back into "Beast Mode." And reportedly he has been an absolute delight in camp and would love to see some pre-season action, something that wasn't always the case in Seattle. The front office has made some other interesting additions, including tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson, who presence will be felt most on kick returns. First-round draft pick Gareon Conley, who will not face charges on rape allegations, has been on the PUP list because of an injury he denies - so it looks like he may be a problem already. A bigger problem might be left tackle Donald Penn, who protects Carr's blind side but is holding out for a better contract. 

ABOUT THE CARDINALS: Arizona lost a 20-18 decision to the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game, but the Cards' starters did not play. However, it is clear that Blaine Gabbert is making a move to become the #2 quarterback, as he completed eleven of 14 passes for 185 yards. Gabbert, who replaced Colin Kaepernick as the starter in San Francisco, was considered a first-round bust with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Bruce Arians might have something of a dilemma when it comes to his fifth-round draft pick, TJ Logan from North Carolina. Logan not only averaged six yards a carry against Dallas, he also was a standout in the return game, but a wrist injury will keep him out of action for three months. So the Cards have to decide whether to activate him once he gets off injured reserve, which would require him to make the final 53-man roster. Arizona has plenty of running backs who will be on display, including former NFL rushing champion Chris Johnson, who might find himself fighting for a roster spot. QB Trevor Knight, who played at Oklahoma and Texas A&M, did not look good in his NFL debut. The undrafted free agent hit just five of his 14 pass attempts in the second half.

EXTRA POINTS 

1. Justin Bethel is making a strong bid to be the starting cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson, who is drawing raves in camp. Bethel is a three-time Pro Bowler and has been All-Pro twice, but he's done it for his work on special teams. 

2. The Raiders allowed 61 passing plays of twenty or more yards last season, more than any team in the NFL. 

3. The Cards were #1 in the NFC in total defense last year, and had more sacks than any other team in the NFL (48). 

4. Conversely, Oakland, with just 25 sacks, had fewer than anyone in the league. 

5. Oakland's newly-acquired Cordarelle Patterson has led the league in kickoff returns three times and has won first-team All-Pro honors twice. 

PREDICTION:  Cardinals 24, Raiders 13