Well, well, well if it isn't the 49ers. While it was just eight weeks ago, in real time, that these teams met in the pre-season, it was light years in NFL time.
Pre-season Week Three, had 49ers fans dreaming of a gold rush in the ripe mountains of the NFC West. Five regular season losses later and the 49ers have yet to find their first nugget. They have already replaced their offensive coordinator, Head Coach Mike Singletary's seat is on fire and QB Alex Smith is well...he's Alex Smith and the David Carr era is probably a bad play away.
At 2-3 the Raiders come into this game in the reasonably expected record range. Although, it took a huge win against the Chargers to do it and in the process keep Cable's seat a little cooler than Singletary's.
The 49ers were supposed to win this year with defense and running the football. This was probably a good strategy since they aren't doing either have failed to win. San Francisco is currently ranked 27th in points allowed, 21st in passing yards allowed and 18th in rushing yards allowed. They are also 30th in rushing yards per game and 25th yards per rush.
Still they are not a hopeless 0-5 team. They have been in three close games and certainly pose some matchup problems for a Raiders team that is still trying to find its defense. This is a huge game for the teams, coaches, QBs and fans. This is a battle for the Bay Area Gold. Will the 49ers finally find it and deposit it or will the Raiders pillage it and sail off in victory?
Let's look at the matchups that will dictate the outcome.
Now that we are in Week 6, there is a good sample size as teams have started to reveal their identities. I will be using a lot more stats in the matchup previews and I rely heavily on Football Outsiders for some advanced stats. For those of you that are familiar with them, hello fellow football geek--for those of you who are not, but may be interested, check out their site it's fascinating--for those of you who don't care about that, just look at the rankings and trust that they are damn good at what they do.
Even after the pass defense took last week's game off, they are still only allowing a respectable 198 passing yards per game, which is the 10th lowest total in the league. That is a bit of a mirage, however. They are 29th, at 7.7, in yards per attempt and 30th, at 13 yards per completion.
The 49ers have been moving the ball through the air at a decent rate. Alex Smith threw for over three bills last week and on the season they are 11th in the league at 233.6 yards per game. Here is where this matchup gets really dicey.
The 49ers leading WR in yardage is TE Vernon Davis. Third in yardage is Michael Crabtree. Crabtree started off slow, but has had a productive last two games and both of these guys went over 100-yards last week.
The Raiders, according to Football Outsiders, are defending the TEs and #1 WRs worse than any team in the league. These rankings take into account many things, but it is essentially rated on the production allowed to these players compared to their average.
49ers Pass Rush vs Raiders Offensive Line
Maybe, just maybe, some week this will not be to the Raiders opposition's advantage, but--unless you're into asphyxiation--don't hold your breath.
The Raiders did a decent job giving Jason Campbell time to throw last week, but the Chargers almost exclusively rushed only three or four defenders. Two of the three Chargers sacks came after the Raiders failed to identify the blitz properly, which gave the charging Charger a free run at the QB.
On the season the 49ers have 10 sacks and are ranked 11th with a 6.9 percent adjusted sack rate. Jason Campbell's old buddy, Travis LaBoy, leads the way with three sacks.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have given up 16 sacks and are 24th with an 8.5 percent adjusted sack rate.
The Raiders Tackles will again be the key here. They will not only have to identify who to block, but they will also have to possess the foot speed to get in front of the 49ers speedy outside rushers.
Pillaging The Gold
Raiders RBs vs 49ers D
The 49ers have been better on run D than they have at Pass D. They are 10th at yards allowed per attempt at 3.9. Overall their run D is 14th in DVOA ranking.
Still, the Raiders are coming off of two games against upper echelon run Ds and they have more than held their own. Currently, the Raiders are averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Their offensive line is ranked 8th by FO in run blocking.
It is in the passing game, however, where the Raiders backs would appear to have their biggest advantage. FO ranks the 49ers dead last in pass defense against the backs. This should play right into Jason I-love-me-some-checkdowns Campbell's hands.
With or without Darren McFadden the Raiders backs are excellent in the pass game and the Raiders have shown versatility in getting the ball to them through the air. Marcel Reece is a matchup nightmare coming out of the backfield and if Bush and McFadden both do play, the Raiders backfield will be as good as any in the passing game.
A quick look at the stats and it becomes obvious why the 49ers have failed to win a game. They are last in the league with a -10 turnover ratio. They aren't getting them and they are giving them up. They have surrendered the second most turnovers with 15 (nine by INT and six by fumble).
The Raiders only have two INTs on the year and they are licking their chops while looking to force another Smith-Singletary sideline therapy session.
The interesting part of this matchup is the fumbles. The Raiders come into the game even in turnover margin. This is not because they are holding onto the ball. They are 30th in the league, fumbling 2.8 times per game. They are the best team in the league at recovering their own fumbles.
This is not a part of the game a team would like to rely on. It is much better just to hold onto the ball in the first place. The Raiders will need to do that this week and the 49ers may help them. They are last in the league in forcing fumbles.
The 49ers aren't much better at holding onto the ball then the Raiders. They are 28th in the league with 2.4 fumbles per game and the Raiders are better at causing them. At 1.6 fumbles forced per game the Raiders are 16th.
There Will Be Blood
Zach Miller vs 49ers Pass D
The 49ers are giving up 4.8 catches and 45.2 yards per game to opposing tight ends. They have yet to surrender over 50 yards to any single TE. This number looks even better considering they have faced John Carlson, Brent Celek, Jeremy Shockey and Tony Gonzalez. In fact, FO has the 49ers ranked third in pass defense DVOA against TEs.
49ers Run O vs Raiders Run D
This should be a good matchup, but not because it is strength against the strength. The 49ers are only getting 3.7 yards per carry this season--while the Raiders are giving up a vomit inducing 5 yards per carry. FO has the 9ers ranked 19th in run O DVOA and the Raiders 24th in run D DVOA.
Frank Gore torched the Raiders for a long run in the pre-season and the Raiders have already given up their share of long runs in the regular season.
The area to watch will be the runs at the between the Tackles and Guards. FO has the 9ers ranked first in runs on the left side in this area and 5th to the right side. The Raiders are 7th in stopping runs to the left side in this area, but 27th on the right.
How To Leave With The Booty
Like most teams, I am sure the 49ers will test the Raiders run D early and often. The Raiders will have to contain this run game and force Alex Smith to beat them. LaMarr Houston is going to have to show why we all thought he would be a good run stuffing DE.
Trevor Scott performed well at WLB last week in run D against the laboring Mike Tolbert, but looked slow when Ryan Mathews was coming towards the edge. Frank Gore's speed is much close to Mathews than Tolbert's. If Scott again starts at WLB, he will have to take better angles.
When they are passing, the Raiders need to get pressure on Smith. I don't care if it's blitzing or the down lineman--just get there and then go duck hunting.
On offense the Raiders need to keep their running game going. When they do pass, it's simple: Give the QB time to throw. And JaMario Velderson, don't get him killed. I don't want any lineman feeling the need to send, "I'm sorry I almost let your head get ripped off," texts.
Along with being porous defending backs in the passing game, the 9ers are also 32nd in defending 3rd and 4th WRs. Coincidently, the Raiders suck at getting the ball to these guys. When they do spread the field though, they like to put Murphy in the slot. They need to look to exploit him when they do. Also, this would be a great game to try and get Jacoby Ford or Nick Miller the ball in the passing game.
It will also help to not get 12 penalties. Once again, the Raiders are leading the league in penalty yardage. The 49ers, however, are 25th in creating opponent penalties at 5.2 per game.
This game should be interesting. How could it not be? There is a lot on the line for a lot of people involved.