Once again, the Arizona Cardinals are sitting alone at the top of the NFC West.
The Cardinals beat the Washington Redskins 30-20 on Sunday, improving their record to 4-1, and are now a half game ahead of the San Francisco 49ers for the division lead.
The win may have been important, but the greater victory for the team was the return of quarterback Carson Palmer from injury.
Palmer missed the previous three games for the Cardinals, recovering from a nerve injury in his shoulder, and looked comfortable after his month off, throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Palmer’s return also had an immediate impact on wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, with both players catching their first touchdowns of the season.
The Cardinals match up against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, and Oakland is currently on the opposite end of the spectrum in their own division.
At 0-5, the Raiders are last in the AFC West, although the team saw some glimmer of hope in their 31-28 loss on Sunday to the red-hot San Diego Chargers. The Chargers needed a touchdown run in the final two minutes to win the game, and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had the best game so far of his rookie season, throwing for 282 yards and four touchdowns.
As Arizona and Oakland prepare for Sunday’s meeting, we’ll go behind enemy lines and bring you all the news from the Raiders:
Friday, October 17
• Schaub focusing on helping Carr as the backup QB (Inside Bay Area)
Oakland started training camp with the idea that Matt Schaub would be the starter behind center, but Derek Carr had different plans, playing his way into the starting spot. With Schaub as the backup, he is now helping the rookie quarterback grow and succeed in the Raiders’ offense.
• Woodley needs to beat former Raider to get first sack of season (CSN Bay Area)
Oakland took a risk during the offseason, spending big to sign veteran linebacker LaMarr Woodley. After five games, Woodley is without a sack, and will be matched up against former Oakland left tackle Jared Veldheer on Sunday to try and stop that drought.
• Raiders trying to fix awful third-down defense (ESPN.com)
The Raiders defense has been historically bad on third-down this season, ranking among the worst in the history of the NFL. With the defense continuing to struggle, the start of the solution may be to get the unit off the field with these opportunities.
• McFadden hopeful to continue healthy season (Inside Bay Area)
Raiders running back Darren McFadden is usually battling a multitude of injuries by the middle of October, but this year is different. The running back is no longer fighting off lingering injuries, and is looking to spend the rest of the season using the abilities that he’s shown in flashes throughout his career.
• Carr not backing down from top-notch cornerbacks (SF Gate)
Through five games, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has thrown at star cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Flowers. With a matchup against Patrick Peterson this week, Carr is not planning to shy away from the Cardinals’ shutdown corner.
Thursday, October 16
• Palmer complimentary of short stint in Oakland (CSN Bay Area)
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was surprisingly traded to Oakland in 2011, and then quickly sent to Arizona in 2012. Ready to face Oakland on Sunday for the first time since the trade, Palmer only has great things to say about the organization, despite his quick exit.
Oakland wide receiver Andre Holmes achieved just the second 100-yard performance of his career on Sunday, when he had four receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders hope that Sunday’s performance is the sign of a bright future for the receiver.
• Hayden is ready to get back after his stress fracture (CSN Bay Area)
Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden spent the first six weeks of the season on the sideline with a stress fracture in his foot. After battling the injury since May, Hayden is excited to finally make an impact in between the sidelines.
• Carr and Palmer’s pasts influenced Sunday’s matchup (Inside Bay Area)
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer have a history that goes back to Palmer’s junior high school. But it’s the recent decision for Oakland to get rid of Palmer and attempt a younger start at the position that has the two players meeting on Sunday.
Wednesday, October 15
• Raiders Offense Needs To Stay Wide Open Going Forward In 2014 (CBS Sacramento)
The Oakland Raiders’ 31-28 loss to San Diego was their most competitive game of the season. For the team to build on that and win a game this season, they need to go all out with rookie quarterback Derek Carr and their offense.
• Rookie Watch: Raiders’ 2014 draft class is paying off (Sports Illustrated)
This season has been a rough one for the Raiders, but the silver lining has to be the play of their rookies. First-round pick Khalil Mack has not only been a top rookie linebacker, but a top linebacker in the league. Second-round pick Derek Carr shone in his start against the Chargers, with 282 yards for four touchdowns and one interception.
When Tony Sparano took over the head coaching job for the Raiders, he instilled a back-to-basics atmosphere in Oakland, with shorter practices, training-camp drills and a smaller playbook.
• Derek Carr Ready To Take The Next Step? (Fansided)
Derek Carr has played well for a rookie quarterback thrown immediately into a starting role, with 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. One quality Carr showed in college, and has started to show with Oakland, is leadership. As Carr continues to improve, Raiders fans will continue to be excited about his potential.
Tuesday, October 14
• Oakland likes QB Carr’s “gunslinger” apporach (Inside Bay Area)
Quarterback Derek Carr has thrown five interceptions in his first five games, getting picked off on some very questionable attempts. The rookie also has eight touchdown passes, and the Raiders are embracing his tendency to take chances with his passes.
The Raiders’ wide receivers were almost non-existent the first month of season, but they finally made their presence known on Sunday. The unit racked up 250 receiving yards and four touchdowns against the Chargers, and need to continue their improvement for the Raiders to find success.
• QB Carr praises his offensive line (ESPN.com)
The Raiders have had some ups and many more downs in 2014, although very few of those downs involve quarterback Derek Carr getting hit. Carr has only been sacked three times this season, and he gives all the credit to the hard work of his offensive line.
• Coach Sparano doesn’t want a letdown for the Raiders on Sunday (CSN Bay Area)
The Raiders played the Chargers tough on Sunday, although it’s not the first time Oakland has pushed a first-place team to the brink this year, after nearly beating the New England Patriots in Week 3. The Raiders followed that game with a 30-14 loss, and interim head coach Tony Sparano wants the team to keep building momentum, rather than throwing up another dud.