Even though San Francisco and Oakland are very close to each other – 23 miles, in fact – the 49ers have not made that trip there in 23 years (since 1979). They will this Sunday, right smack into the home of the "Raider Nation." These are the kinds of rivalries that realignment and its new scheduling formula will make even more intense.
There'll be a familiar face awaiting the Niners at Network Associates Coliseum – the NFL's all-time touchdown scorer (199), scrimmage-yards leader (21,617), receptions (1,409) and reception-yards leader (20,990) – who else, No. 80 – JERRY RICE, who amassed the bulk of those records as a 49er from 1985-2000 and helped the team to three Super Bowl championships.
It will be Rice's first regular-season game against his old mates.Rice Sunday can add more chapters to his milestone dossier. With one touchdown, he becomes the first player in NFL history with 200, and with 10 yards, Rice becomes the first with 21,000 receiving yards.
The 40-year-old Rice – the only receiver to play at that age in the NFL since 1970 -- will essentially go against the man who took over for him, TERRELL OWENS of the Niners. The 28-year-old is on his way to duplicating his ranking as the top TD receiver (16) of last year. With his two scoring catches last Sunday, Owens leads the NFC in receiving TDs.
"I'm watching him in awe in a lot of ways," says San Francisco quarterback JEFF GARCIA. "T.O. gives us a capacity that very few teams have."
The game also pits Garcia vs. Gannon. Garcia – leading the 49ers to a 5-2 record and first place in the NFC West -- is ranked third in the NFC in passer rating (91.5). RICH GANNON (97.1) of the Raiders is second to Bledsoe in the AFC and knows it's time for the 4-3 Raiders to stop their three-game skid. He has thrown for 300 or more yards in six consecutive games, joining STEVE YOUNG and KURT WARNER as the only quarterbacks to do so in NFL history. No QB has thrown for 300 in seven games in a row.