Just four games left. The Raiders are currently in sole possession of the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft with a 1-11 record. The 49ers are 7-5 and are teetering on a playoff berth. There are an 8-point favorite in this game. The Raiders haven't been favored in any game this season. They have only won one of those games but they are 6-2 in covering the spread in games where the opposition is favored by 6.5 points or more.
Here is what to watch for in this game.
The Raiders made statement this week to notify the fans there will be an increased police presence at the game both uniformed and undercover. The league was put on high alert when these two teams played their last preseason game against each other in 2011 and several incidents of fan violence broke out including a shooting. Regardless of who was at fault or if it even had anything to do with rival fans, it triggered increased security at all games. This being the first time they have met since then, they are getting ahead of it to have fans thinking twice about getting out of hand.
We found out that momentum from a win doesn't mean much with this team. After a big win over a tough Chiefs team, the Raiders had their second worst loss in franchise history in a 52-0 faceplant in St Louis. Now we see if they have a rebound game. They are trying to get past the embarrassment they had from that game while retaining the feeling so they don't let it happen again. A loss like that can suck the spirit out of a team or give them renewed focus. It will be interesting to see if they played defeated or rally for pride.
This is a different Raiders team with Latavius Murray on the field. Mainly because they can actually put together a functioning offense when they have a run game (imagine that). He is primarily responsible for the Raiders' only win of the season when he ran for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns on 4 carries against the Chiefs two weeks ago. The 49ers are a clearly better team but so were the Chiefs. Latavius' presence in this game is the most important part. And a repeat performance by him could cement his role as the Raiders new feature back.
Aldon Smith returns
For the second straight week, the Raiders will face a team whose premiere pass rusher just returned to the lineup. Last week it was Chris Long - who had a sack - coming off partial season IR and this week it is Aldon Smith who returned last week from suspension. He already has 2.0 sacks in just three starts this season. The 49ers have dealt with a lot of turnover in the defense throughout this season and yet have remained one of the better defenses in the league. Having Smith back only strengthens an already strong unit which features Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, and rookie Aaron Lynch each of whom have 5.0 sacks on the season.
There is a bit of an issue for the 49ers along the offensive line and it centers around the Martins. They deploy rookie third round pick Marcus Martin at center and will be starting Jonathan Martin at usual starting right tackle Anthony Davis being out with a concussion. You may remember Jonathan Martin as the former Miami Dolphins left tackle who left the team, claiming guard Richie Incognito was bullying him. Martin went to college at Stanford and the 49ers brought the talented tackle back to the Bay Area to play for them. He is described at the weakest link on that line and you can bet the Raiders will test him constantly. Same goes for the rookie center.
Khalif Barnes vs Aaron Lynch
While Aldon Smith will be wreaking havoc on the left edge, Aaron Lynch will be giving Khalif Barnes all he can handle at right tackle. Menelik Watson injured his ankle in the second quarter of the game last week and he was replaced by Barnes. This is not Barnes' first rodeo at right tackle - he was the team's starting right tackle for a couple seasons. He played there to begin this season as well. He struggled last week in spot duty and looks to settle in after a week of practice there. Lynch has been outstanding for the 49ers this season. He was chosen in the fifth round out of South Florida and is tied for the team lead with 5.0 sacks.
Sio Moore had a hip injury "creep up" on him in practice this week. He was limited in practice Thursday and Friday and is questionable for the game. If he can't go, the alternative is not pretty. It would most likely signal Ray Ray Armstrong gets the start. Armstrong was cut by the Rams earlier this season due to mental lapses and a penchant for penalties. Sio had a rough game last week along with the rest of the Raiders defense, but on the season he has been one of the few bright spots. Losing him would be a serious blow. And having him hobbled with an injury would also be damaging.
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