The big news for this game is whether the 49ers will have CJ Beathard at quarterback or Nick Mullens. The thing about that is the 49ers haven’t won a game with Beathard out there, so we don’t know if Mullens would really be a significant downgrade.
Clearly QB is a concern for them. That’s a given. Their strengths lie elsewhere, while the Raiders have had some difficulty this season finding a strength. They certainly have weaknesses though, so the key will be trying to figure those out.
Slow the run
This first one is by far the hardest to accomplish. Notice I didn’t say stop the run? Because that would be asking way too much from this Raiders defense that has been the wort in the league in rushing yards per game allowed (144.7).
This may be the one area where these two teams are the farthest apart. The 49ers are fifth in the league in yards per carry (4.8) and the Raiders are the worst in the league at stopping it.
The past couple weeks teams have figured out the way to beat the Raiders early is to run the ball. Matt Breida has 487 yards this season and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Last week the Colts ran it down the Raiders throats to great success. The Seahawks did the same the week before. Both teams controlled the clock, limiting the Raiders offense’s ability to respond.
Figure out the safety situation
It’s time to stop messing around with the safety position. Stop moving players in and out of the lineup and settle on two guys. Those two guys need to be Erik Harris and Karl Joseph.
The biggest problem for the safeties last week is one that has been an evergreen problem for the Raiders the past few years – covering the tight end. The 49ers have one of the better tight ends in the NFL in George Kittle. He’s currently third in the NFL among tight ends with 584 yards receiving.
Last week, the Colts had great success with their tight ends. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron both had great days. Even third tight end Mo Alie-Cox had an acrobatic touchdown catch.
No player was more victimized by the tight ends than Marcus Gilchrist. Joseph had a couple of catches made on him as well, which is why Harris should be given tight end duties. He and Joseph are the young safeties who still have something left to prove. Reggie Nelson is past it and Gilchrist is a known commodity. Go with Harris and Joseph and stick with them better or worse.
Protect Derek Carr
We saw last week what Derek Carr can do when he gets protection and time to throw. We have seen this at times in his career before now. If he gets comfortable, he can make some eye popping throws. And the moment he gets uncomfortable, that all goes out the window.
The 49ers best pass rushers are the Dynamic Ducks Duo of DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. Buckner leads the team with 4.5 sacks this season and is a force on the inside while Armstead has 3.0 sacks from the defensive end position.
Buckner in particular is going to give the guards all they can handle and the tackles on occasion as well. Last week the Raiders offensive line looked as good as they have all season in protecting Carr and it allowed him to throw for three touchdowns, two of which were deep passes.
Kelechi Osemele is questionable for the game with his knee injury that has had him out for a month. His presence would be valuable, but only if he’s full go. A gimpy Osemele would be a bad match-up with Buckner. They’d be better off going with Jon Feliciano in that case and giving Osemele another week to heal up.