NFL Picks: An Underdog That Could Win Outright

The Oakland Raiders are the NFL Picks Moneyline Special of the Week
The Oakland Raiders and head coach Tom Cable look for their second win when they travel to Arizona this Sunday afternoon. With Al Davis still calling the shots, Cable needs a strong season or he’s going to be looking for another job.

The home Cardinals opened as a 4 point favorite and the line has gone up to 4 ½ points at most books. The squares are playing the Raiders at 2:1 against the spread and 3:1 on the moneyline. Although the Raiders have been one of the NFL’s worst teams in the past 5 or 6 years, they look to be improved this year on both sides of the ball. And the Cardinals obviously have big problems. Consider taking the Raiders and the points, but the Silver and Black are paying back +175 on the moneyline and are probably a risk worth taking.

The Raiders brought in Jason Campbell to be the starter, but Bruce Gradkowski will get the start this Sunday. Campbell has been ineffective in his 2 starts, and Gradkowski relieved him last week in the win against St. Louis. Either way, Raider fans and anyone in the known universe can agree that either starter is an upgrade from JaMarcus Russell. Gradkowski played well in the preseason and good enough against St. Louis. Chances are he won’t be asked to win the game, but rather serve as a compliment to the Raiders’ rushing attack.

Tom Cable loves to run the football, and he seems to have the personnel to make it work. In his 3rd year out of Arkansas, Darren McFadden is starting to find his rhythm. Through 2 games, McFadden has 240 rushing yards and is averaging 5 yards per carry. His better game was against the lowly Rams, but he nearly cracked the 100 yard mark at Tennessee, and he averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Michael Bush is expected to play this week, so McFadden will have to share some carries. Bush is a bruising back who is great in short yardage situations. The offensive line hopes to have Robert Gallery back, too. Gallery is the team’s best blocker, but he’s listed as questionable with a bad hamstring.

The Raider defense hasn’t been too bad this year. They’ve given up an average of only 277 yards per game, which is 9th in the League. They are 5th against the pass, giving up 137 ½ yards per contest. The rush defense has been poor, ranking 29th. But they’ve played Chris Johnson and Tennessee and still rank ahead of the Cardinals, who are 31st.

Arizona is a team that is still searching for an identity. With Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin no longer with the team, and Beanie Wells sidelined with a knee injury, the Cardinals haven’t been able to establish any offensive continuity. Their yards per carry average (6.8) is gaudy, but that includes an outlandish 9.1 yard average against Atlanta last week when they got thrashed, 41-7. In other words, they were mostly garbage yards when the Falcons were playing 7 or 8 in pass coverage. Maybe worst of all, the Cardinals have turned the ball over 7 times through 2 games.

The defense hasn’t done much right, either. They’re 27th in the League in total yards against. As mentioned they’re 31st against the run, and playing a team like Oakland should mean trouble.

This isn’t a high profile game that many NFL picks handicappers are playing, and for good reason. But it seems the Raiders are getting better and the Cardinals are getting worse. Oakland can run the ball, and Arizona can’t stop the run. As long as the Raiders take care of the ball they should win the turnover battle. Arizona by more than a field goal feels like a stretch, so taking Oakland with the points is probably the best play. But playing Oakland on the moneyline at +175 is a good way to bet less and make more.

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