SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Their record is 0-5, their quarterback is getting booed by the hometown fans and their coach may already be in win-or-else mode. So you think anybody really cares what team the San Francisco 49ers are playing on Sunday?
OK, it's the Oakland Raiders, the team on the other side of the bay. This is a game that typically stirs emotions among fans but has barely caused a ripple in the locker rooms or in local newspapers.
Part of the reason is that the San Francisco Giants are in the National League Championship Series for the first time in eight years. It's also because the 49ers are winless and the Raiders are 2-3.
"We're not so much interested in the rivalry as we are in the fact it's a tough opponent that we have to face," said 49ers backup tackle Barry Sims, who spent his first nine seasons with the Raiders. "I don't think anybody's really tied into the Battle of the Bay as some of the fans might be."
It's understandable given the team's start. The 49ers want to win a game, and they don't care if it's against the Dallas Cowboys or Slippery Rock. It's the franchise's worst start since 1979, Bill Walsh's first year as head coach.
The locker room has been inordinately quiet this week. Players shuffle in and out of meetings, and no one really wants to talk about the frustrating start. The Raiders? Well, wide receiver Josh Morgan tried to drum up a little enthusiasm.
Asked why there seemed to be little energy about the game, Morgan said, "You don't feel the energy? I feel it. Just because you don't feel it don't mean I don't feel it. I feel the energy right now. I could picture you in an Oakland Raiders jersey right now. I don't know what I might do to you."
Then he laughed. Asked if he hates the Raiders, he said, "I don't hate nobody."
"From a film standpoint, I think they're similar," he said. "Campbell can scramble a little bit better maybe. I'm not saying there's a lot of difference, but there are similarities between both of them. They're two good football players."
One matchup worth watching: 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree vs. Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, whom most teams usually try to avoid. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson has gotten the second-year receiver more involved in the offense, and Crabtree last Sunday had career highs in catches (9) and yards (105) against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was also targeted a season-high 14 times.
"We want to make sure we get the ball to 85 (TE Vernon Davis), 15 (Crabtree) and 21 (RB Frank Gore) every week and that those guys have opportunities to make plays," Johnson said. "If you look at our touchdowns the other day, Crabtree had one, Vernon had one and Frank Gore had one. So if we get those guys the ball enough, they're going to make plays and score points. It's going to be a big part of what we do going forward."
INJURIES: Safety Curtis Taylor (quadriceps) and tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) have been rule out for Sunday's game. Listed as probable: tackle Joe Staley (shoulder), guard Adam Snyder (quadriceps) and backup quarterback Troy Smith (abdomen).