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Cardinals Looking For More Progress Against Raiders

Team has built some momentum over past two games

RB David Johnson will look to have another big game against the Raiders.
RB David Johnson will look to have another big game against the Raiders.

Steve Wilks made clear after his team's competitive showing in Kansas City that he doesn't traffic in moral victories.

Even so, the Cardinals had some things to be proud of after the 26-14 loss. They held the Chiefs to a season-low in points and yards, sustained a pair of long touchdown drives and got running back David Johnson untracked.

The Cardinals coach was asked what those things meant in his day-after press conference.

 "It means," Wilks said, "that we are moving in the right direction. It means that we're evolving on the offensive side of the ball."

The Cardinals (2-7) are not going to the playoffs this season but are looking to trend positively for the future. They want progress and victories down the stretch, and both are within their grasp in Sunday's home matchup against the one-win Raiders.

Oakland's had some issues pop up of late, while the Cardinals have seemingly settled in after a turbulent start under a new coaching staff.

 "I think you can see that, not only with the coaching staff but with the players, as well," Wilks said. "Within the system, guys just really executing. You've seen that in the last two games."

The Cardinals have a rough road schedule the rest of the way – at the Chargers, Packers, Falcons and Seahawks – so a winnable opportunity like this can't be wasted. Oakland has talent deficiencies and injury woes.

The Raiders are 30th in points allowed, which should give the Cardinals' offense some opportunities to make plays. Quarterback Josh Rosen, though, must be protected better after he was pressured regularly and sacked five times against the Chiefs.

The injury picture on the offensive line is concerning, as guard Justin Pugh went on injured reserve Tuesday while left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) and guard Mike Iupati (back) are both questionable to play.

Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich expressed faith in the backups on Thursday and said an important facet is staying ahead on the scoreboard to keep balance in the play-calling.

"Hopefully we won't be in two-minute situations, where we have to be in the pass-now mindset," Leftwich said.

The Cardinals' defense is up to No. 6 in the NFL in Football Outsiders' efficiency metric after the impressive showing against the Chiefs. Oakland has scored only nine points in its past two games, and while quarterback Derek Carr is solid, his list of skill weapons has dwindled due to injuries.

The Cardinals must make up for the absence of safety Budda Baker, who won't play due to a knee injury. Cornerback Bené Benwikere will take over his role in nickel packages.

"We're in good shape right now with Bené," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "He's another guy who can play a lot of positions in this defense."

In an interview with 98.7 FM Arizona's Sports Station on Friday, General Manager Steve Keim echoed Wilks' belief in the positive momentum the Cardinals have built in recent weeks.

"I am starting to see a lot of things that excite me, not only on the offensive side of the ball, but defensively as well," Keim said.

They need it to continue against the Raiders.

Images of key players for this week's opponent, the Oakland Raiders