It’s been 11 months since the Oakland Raiders last won a game, and things won’t get any easier in Week 7. The Raiders (0-5) will host the Arizona Cardinals (4-1) on Sunday in an attempt to get their first victory of the 2014 NFL season.
Oakland is just one of two teams that remains winless, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Raiders have lost some very winnable games, including those against the one-win New York Jets and against the 2-3 Miami Dolphins.
It’s difficult for a team to win games when it can’t score points, and that’s been Oakland’s biggest problem. Prior to Week 6, the Raiders hadn’t scored more than 14 points in a game, and only the Jaguars have a worse scoring average.
The struggles of the Raiders and Jaguars are no coincidence, since they’re both led by rookie quarterbacks. Derek Carr, the only first-year signal caller to start every game in 2014, has had difficulty moving the ball downfield. He ranks 29th with just 203 passing yards per game, and 24 quarterbacks have thrown for a higher completion percentage. The quarterback has been hampered by a running game that’s been almost nonexistent and ranks second-to-last in the NFL.
Carr showed improvement in his last game, possibly indicating that the Raiders could be on the cusp of their first win. Coming off their bye week and under interim head coach Tony Sparano, Oakland lost by just three points to the San Diego Chargers, who are tied for the league’s best record. Carr threw four touchdown passes and one interception against the No.2 scoring defense.
If Carr wants to have another big game, the Cardinals might be the team to do it against. Arizona sports a top 10 scoring defense, but they’ve allowed more passing yards per game than any other team.
Arizona will be a tough matchup for Oakland. They hold sole possession of first place in the NFC West over the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, and have wins against the 49ers and Chargers. Still, questions remain about how good the Cardinals actually are.
Statistically, Arizona does not match up with the best teams in football. They rank 21st in total defense, allowing nearly 385 yards per game, and don’t score at a high rate, ranking 19th with 23.2 points per game.
For much of the year, Arizona’s offense has been forced to rely on second and third-string quarterbacks. That changed in Week 6 with the return of Carson Palmer, and the veteran will be back on the field in Week 7. He completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns against the Washington Redskins.
The Raiders continue to be underdogs in every game this season. At home, the betting odds at Las Vegas casinos have Oakland getting 3.5 points. The over/under is 44 total points.
Prediction: Oakland’s offense looks improved, and it should be able to move the ball against the league’s worst passing defense. Kirk Cousins was able to have success against the Raiders, but Washington lost because of his three interceptions. Carr has been adequate at protecting the ball this season, so he could have success on Sunday, and help the Raiders get their first win over a team that isn’t as good as their record might indicate.
Predicted Score: Oakland 27, Arizona 23