Battle of the Bay: Raiders @ 49ers Preview

The Raiders have a chance to do something they haven’t done since 2002; get back to .500. While bragging rights are always icing on the cake, the Raiders may be as desperate for a win as the 0-5 49ers.

The 49ers season is on the line. It is hard enough to believe the 49ers can still win the division after starting 0-5, but 0-6 is season-ending no matter how soft the division or weak the schedule.

The 49ers are still a tough team, with plenty of talent to win. Their problem has been beating themselves with turnovers and the inability to create them. With a turnover margin of -10, the 49ers are last in the league and it isn’t close. The next closest team has a -6 turnover margin.

Offense:

Jason Campbell will get the start for the injured Bruce Gradkowski. He lead the Raiders to a win at home last weak to snap a 13-game losing streak to the rival Chargers. The key for Campbell is the protection. Given time to make his reads he will find the open receivers.

The 49ers will test the Raiders in pass protection early and the Raiders need to run the ball and use screens and quick passes to keep the 49ers defensive attack on their heels.

Robert Gallery is back and will start at left guard. Daniel Loper filled in admirably for Gallery, but there is little doubt Gallery is instant upgrade to the offensive line.

Specifically, Mario Henderson and Langston Walker will be tested. They have played much better recently, but will have their hands full with speed rushers coming around the edge. Walker has, at least, been a good run blocker.

Campbell must avoid turnovers. The 49ers haven’t been able to create turnovers this season and interceptions and quarterback fumbles are typically the easiest to get. Campbell is better off taking the sack than forcing passes to receivers that are covered.

Darrius Heyward-Bey is still looking for his breakout game. While he has opened up things for Zach Miller, he has yet to flash what he is supposed to be able to do with all that speed. Last week, Campbell had Heyward-Bey open for a long score, but didn’t have the confidence to throw it. With a week’s worth of practice, let’s hope Campbell is willing to make the throw when it is open.

Having showed plenty of flashes, but little consistency, Louis Murphy needs to string together good games. The 49ers are weak at safety and the Raiders need to use their speed receivers to make them pay.

Darren McFadden will likely be inactive for one more week and Michael Bush will get the majority of the carries. Bush will run behind an offensive line that did a good job opening up holes against the Chargers front  seven. The 49ers also play a 3-4, but the Raiders will likely attack the edges to avoid Patrick Willis and Aubrayo Franklin.

If Bush has success and the 49ers bring a safety into the box, the Raiders could find a receiver open for a long score. Zach Miller is a match-up nightmare for the 49ers. Expect him to have another big game.

Defense

Ridiculous amount of yards given up through the air to the Chargers. Although the secondary collectively made the game-winning play last week, they surrendered too many yards in the air.

Alex Smith isn’t close to Philip Rivers, but he can shred a defense if given enough time. The Raiders need to attack the rookie right side of the 49ers offensive line with speed. Expect Scott or Wimbley to come on the blitz.

Frank Gore was an unstoppable force against the first team defense this preseason. Rolando McClain has been progressively improving and has his hands full with yet another elite back.

The Raiders did a good job bottling up the Chargers ground game and with so much success passing they abandoned it. Mike Singletary isn’t likely to abandon the run and trust Alex Smith to beat the Raiders.

Stop Frank Gore and force the Alex Smith to find his secondary weapon, Vernon Davis.

Mike Mitchell allowed Antonio Gates to catch one pass last week playing as a nickel linebacker. The Raiders will likely push him to cover Vernon Davis this week in the same situations. We will see if Mitchell can continue to cover at a high level.

Michael Crabtree is the 49ers third option, but will be blanketed by Nnamdi Asomugha. After one of the poorest games in Asomugha’s career last week, it would be easy to bet on him being on point against the 49ers.

Special Teams

Nick Miller did a good job punt returning and has retained the job this week. Jacoby Ford looks to be settling in at kick returner, but needs to be more aware of ball security, nearly coughing up the ball last week on the return.

Sebastian Janikowksi and Shane Lechler rarely need to be worried about, but with a cold and potentially wet game at Candlestick, the winds could be swirling.

Will John Fassel come up with something this week like he did against the Chargers last week?

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