Raiders-49ers Preview

In Week 5, the Raiders look to even up their record against their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are hungry for their first win of the season.

GAME INFO

-- In Week 5, the Raiders head across the bay to square off against the rival San Francisco 49ers.

-- Game time is set for 1:05pm PT. The game will be available on CBS and the broadcast team consists of Bill Macatee and former Raider great Rich Gannon.

-- The Raiders lead the all-time series record, 6-5.

-- The last time these two teams faced off was in Week 5 of 2006, when the 49ers beat the Raiders 34-20 in San Francisco. Alex Smith completed 15 of 19 passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns

-- Both Bay Area teams have struggled in recent years. When the 49ers finished last season with a record of 8-8, it was the best record for either team since 2002. That season, both teams made the playoffs with the Raiders also reaching the Super Bowl.

-- Last week, the 49ers fell to the Michael Vick-less Philadelphia Eagles, 27-24.

-- The 49ers are off to their worst start in 31 years (0-5), despite entering the season as the favorites to win the NFC West.

-- The 49ers are led by head coach Mike Singletary. Since becoming head coach in 2008, he has compiled an overall record of 13-17.

-- After a Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Singletary fired his offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and promoted Mike Johnson from quaterbacks coach.

-- Since the change at offensive coordinator, there have been some noticeable changes in the offense. The 49ers have scored on their opening drives in the past two weeks—something they failed to do in all 19 games under Raye. Michael Crabtree has been a bigger part of the offense under Johnson. He caught nine passes for 105 yards last week against the Eagles. Their third down conversion rate has also improved since the change.

-- The 49ers are still a power running, and not a good one at that. Frank Gore is average 3.5 yards per carry this season—worst among the league's top 20 rushers. Turnovers continue to be an issue.

INJURIES

-- For the Raiders:

Out: RB Michael Bennett (hamstring), LB Travis Goethel (back), DT John Henderson (foot), OLB Thomas Howard (knee), WR Chaz Schilens (knee).

Questionable: QB Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder), LB Quentin Groves (hamstring), WR Johnnie Lee Higgins (knee), RB Darren McFadden (hamstring).

Probable: G Robert Gallery (hamstring), G Daniel Loper (ankle), CB Jeremy Ware (ankle).

-- For the 49ers:

Out: TE Delanie Walker (ankle), S Curtis Taylor (quadricep).

Probable: T Joe Staley (shoulder), QB Troy Smith (abdomen), G Adam Snyder (quadricep).

RAIDERS OFFENSE VS 49ERS DEFENSE

With Bruce Gradkowski unlikely to go, Jason Campbell will get the start. Campbell played well last week, filling in for the injured Gradkowski. He showed excellent zip on the ball and did a fair job of positioning himself in the pocket. He'll need to do much of the same against the 49ers 3-4 base defense.

It's not that the 49ers pass rush ranks among the best, but they are fast and will be coming hard at Campbell, who struggles mightily when pressured.

Last week, Campbell threw a few nice deep balls and he might want to do the same against the 49ers. The 49ers are allowing 227.6 passing yards per game, and while the corners—Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements—are a veteran pair, the deep secondary is definitely a soft spot.

At safety, what was once a deep position for the 49ers is now suddenly thin. Veteran Michael Lewis was released last week and Curtis Taylor is out for at least a month with a torn quadricep muscle. The team signed former Charger C.J. Spillman to back up rookie Taylor Mays at strong safety. Third-year man Reggie Smith plays opposite Mays at free safety. His backup is the solid Dashon Goldson.

One of the game's storylines will be the matchup between Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree. Of course, the two Bay Area receivers were the talk of last year's draft after the Raiders passed up on the higher ranked Crabtree for Heyward-Bey.

Given the 49ers youth at safety, look for Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy to test the defense deep down the field. It's especially helpful the Raiders have a tight end like Zach Miller, who will likely draw plenty of attention from Mays and Smith. Last week against the Chargers, the Raiders secondary was caught off guard on a long touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Malcolm Floyd. The key to that play was the presence of Antonio Gates. Look for the Raiders offense to try and do some of the same.

Darren McFadden is likely out for a second consecutive week, so Michael Bush gets the call once more. There isn't any depth behind Bush, so like last week, Bush should get all of the carries.

Against the 49ers 3-4 base, the Raiders will want to pound the ball consistently. The return of Robert Gallery will surely help the cause, although Daniel Loper played admirably well in his absence. The Raiders do not want the 49ers linebackers to converge in on the run. As such, the pass will set up the run this time around. If Campbell can find early success through the air, Patrick Willis and company will think twice of cheating inside.

The Raiders are one flag behind the Detroit Lions for the most penalties this season. The team has shown that when they're on top of their game, they can drive the ball with great efficiency. However, penalties are drive killers and the Raiders have showcased a penchant for pre snap penalties on plenty of occasions.

Advantage: EVEN

RAIDERS DEFENSE VS 49ERS OFFENSE

Alex Smith and the 49ers offense have shown that they can move the ball from time to time, but they haven't been consistent. Their inability to convert on third downs is an issue, but what has hurt them most is turnovers.

Smith currently leads the league in interceptions with nine. This past week, he said that it only becomes an issue when he is too passive in the pocket, and that he is far more effective when he's able to take big shots down the field. Whether or not he'll be able to launch the ball remains to be seen, but given the 49ers offense's modus operandi, it probably won't be that often.

Besides, every team in the NFL knows that the Raiders weakness is their run defense. So despite the fact that Frank Gore has been the focal point for opposing defenses, the 49ers are going to rely on their power running game and pound the ball.

It's going to be a huge test for the defensive front, as they have struggled against physical running teams. The onus will be on Rolando McClain and the linebackers to focus inside, but not get caught cheating off the perimeter. It's a tough call, especially when you've got to go against a tight end like Vernon Davis, but McClain and company will have to play the entire game with one eye and one step towards the inside.

Davis leads the 49ers in receiving with 313 yards and two touchdowns. Gore has been heavily utilized out of the backfield, catching 33 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. After that it's Crabtree, who has come on strong of late. Crabtree has excellent hands and knows how to get open. He's a physical receiver but he'll likely go up against Nnamdi Asomugha, who isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty.

Advantage: EVEN

SPECIAL TEAMS

Ted Ginn was acquired from the Miami Dolphins during the offseason to be a game-changer on special teams. So far, the numbers show that he's done a fair job. Ginn is the main man on punt returns, and shares kick return duties with Kyle Williams. Ginn's shiftiness preceeds him and he's always a threat to break a big run. The Raiders coverage teams has already had a few bouts of misplaced focus, and in a game such as this, special teams is always a factor.

Joe Nedney is 4-5 on field goals. So far, he's made two from with 29 yards and two from beyond 50. If the 49ers offense stalls, the Raiders do not want Nedney to bail them out on a long field goal.

Vice versa is true for the Raiders. Sebastian Janikowski has come on strong of late, after a poor start to the season. Since missing a potential game winning field goal against the Cardinals in Week 3, Janikowski is a perfect three for three.

Andy Lee is a solid option at punter. He's averaging 45.8 on his punts, which is good for seventh in the league. First place? Who else but Shane Lechler.

Advantage: RAIDERS

OUTCOME & PREDICTION

This is clearly a winnable game for the Raiders, especially considering the 49ers' 0-5 start to the season. The Raiders have shown several times this season on a number of drives that they know how to win games. The question remains if they can do so consistently.

At the start of the season, the 49ers might have held the clear edge in this game, but things have changed. It's a pretty even game in that neither team is consistent on offense or defense, so it very well might come down to the old winning points of special teams, penalties and turnovers.

With that, S&BI predicts the Raiders to climb back to .500 with a Week 5 win over the 49ers.

Raiders 27

49ers 24

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