Oakland Raiders Luis Murphy battles for the Football against San Francisco 49ers Taylor Mays
If someone had told me in the first week of September that halfway through the season, the Raiders would be sitting atop the AFC West and the 49ers would have just scratched and clawed their way out of the cellar of the shallowest division in the NFL, I would think they had lost their mind.
The 49ers were predicted to be the runaway winners of the weak NFC West Division. The Roster was stacked with great young talent whose potential was waiting to burst like Hoover Dam patched with a wad of chewed up Bubblicious bubble gum.
You know the story- Alex Smith begins the season as the undisputed no. 1 quarterback, and finally he is starting a season with the same offensive coordinator from the season past. Not to mention, the 49ers drafted two of the nation’s best offensive linemen to give Smith the protection he so desperately needs. Michael Crabtree now has half a season under his belt, and this time around he will be at training camp. The media marathon went on and on and the faithful ate it up. This was the year the 49ers would return to glory.
Across the Bay, things weren’t so bad either. For the first time in years the Raiders brought home a draft class to be proud of. With Rolando McClain in the 1st round, the Raiders were shoring up a defense led by Pro Bowlers Richard Seymour and Nnamdi Asomugha. The battled Tom Cable had won the graces of Al Davis and was returning for his second full season as the Raiders head coach, this time without the sideshow drama of punching another coach in the face. Most importantly however, the “largest” mistake in Raiders history and arguably the biggest bust the NFL has ever seen, JaMarcus Russel had been dumped by the team, opening up a spot for Washington Redskins veteran Quarterback Jason Campbell. No fan was expecting a Super Bowl victory at the end of this season, but for once, things were looking up and so were the Raiders.
After another slow start by the Raiders, winning only 2 of their first 6 games, and a historically dismal start by the 49ers starting the season 0-5, both teams have managed to turn things around and begin the second half of the season with hopes of winning their respective divisions and ending equally torturous and long playoff droughts.
Finally! Fans across the Bay really have something to cheer, and argue about. We can renew the rivalry because both of the teams that call the Bay Area home are relevant once again. But which team is really better?
Let us look at the numbers:
Frank Gore running away from three Oakland defenders
The Oakland Raiders currently sit atop the AFC west with a record of 5-4. They share this record with the Kansas City Chiefs; but with the most recent victory over their AFC rivals, the Raiders secured the sole possession of the no. 1 spot. Based on opponent’s records so far this season, their schedule cannot be considered “tough” being that they have yet to play a team that has more than 5 victories. Their two most impressive wins came against the aforementioned Chiefs as well as usually slow starting but always good, San Diego Chargers. It cannot go without mentioning-the Raiders lost in week six to the 49ers.
Thanks to calling the weakest division in the NFL home, the 49ers at 3-6 currently reside in 3rd place in the NFC West and sit only 2 games back from the first place Seattle Seahawks. With a slightly tougher schedule than their rivals across the bay, the Niners lost close games to the AFC South leading Atlanta Falcons, the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, and the the revived Philadelphia Eagles. While seemingly rising to the occasion when playing the league’s best, then falling just short, the 49ers failed on all fronts when they played the 0-5 Carolina Panthers giving them their only win of the season so far. However, with new quarterback Troy Smith at the helm, the 49ers have begun to turn things around. They have won his first two starts and 3 of their last 4 games, including their first victory which was of course, against the Raiders.
Stats do not lie, and as one would expect, the Raiders sit above the 49ers in most statistical categories.
*For comparisons sake, all of the stats are categorized by yards as a medium for comparison.
Darren McFadden plans his next move
Touting the NFL’s 11th most effective offense, the Raiders, on the backs of their break out running backs, are averaging 361 yards a game for a total of 3249 yards 20 touchdowns and 235 points.
At 22nd in the NFL, the 49ers offense has gained a total of 2948 yards and scored 16 touchdowns for 160 total points while averaging 327.6 yards per game.
Troy Smith proved time and time again that he can make a good throw when forced to scramble from the pocket
With Troy Smith now at the helm, the 49ers’ passing game has begun to leap frog up the ranks, moving up five spots just this week to rest as the 14th ranked passing offense. With a career game against the Rams following a great debut game in London against the Denver Broncos, Troy Smith and the 49ers passers have now gained a total of 2061 yards while completing 177 of 302 passes for a completion percentage of 58.6 percent with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Averaging 229 yards per game, the team of 49ers quarterbacks has a QB rating of 79.2.
With Alex Smith now pacing the sidelines, I will focus on the Heisman trophy winner, Baltimore Ravens reject Troy Smith who has made his presence known by leading the 49ers to two straight wins in his only two starts. In these two games Troy Smith has completed 29 of 47 passes for 552 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. These numbers would be impressively higher if 3 (yes 3) touchdowns would not have been taken away via the dreaded yellow flag in the Niners game against St. Louis. Completing 61.7% of his passes for a QB rating of 116.6, Troy Smith is impressing all and reviving the 49ers “faithful” fan base.
With such an effective running game, the Raiders have been able to release some of the pressure from their pair of quarterbacks and less than stellar receiving core. Between the fan favorite Bruce Gradkowski and the Oakland newcomer Jason Campbell, the Raiders currently stand as the Leagues 25th ranked passing offense. In 273 attempts the Raiders quarterbacks have completed 150 passes for 1789 yards, 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a completion rating of 54.9% and a combined QB rating of 77.5.
Ranked 23rd, Jason Campbell has completed 97 of his 171 passes for 1252 yards, 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. With a QB rating of 81.3, Jason Campbell has proven that he is fit to be the Raiders full time leader as he has officially taken the starting spot from fellow quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
Michael Bush evading 49ers defenders
With a breakout year, both of the Raiders young running backs have begun to earn their paychecks and revive the image of Al Davis who has been harshly criticized over the last decade for his failures at making quality first round draft picks. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush have run the Raiders rushing offense into second place, only 18 yards behind the rushing duo of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs. With 1460 yards, 9 touchdowns and only 1 lost fumble the Oakland Rushing duo are having a season to remember.
Darren McFadden is the NFL’s seventh ranked running back with 757 yards on 139 carries averaging 5.4 yards a carry and 4 touchdowns. He has also been the recipient of 24 passes for 242 yards and no touchdowns.
With Brian Westbrook and Rookie Anthony Davis acting as the league’s most efficient bench warmers, the 49ers have relied almost solely on their star running back Frank Gore who is having another career year, but has only been good enough to rank the 49ers rushing offense at a lowly 22nd in the NFL.
Frank Gore is the NFL's fifth ranked Running back with 778 yards on 186 carries, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 3 touchdowns. He has also pulled down 41 receptions for 415 yards and 2 more touchdowns.
With a core of promising young wide receivers and two Pro Bowl worthy tight ends, the 49ers receiving offense has begun to improve dramatically behind the arm of Troy Smith. Again rising five spots after their victory against the Rams, the 49ers are currently ranked as the NFL’s 14th best receiving core. In total the receiving crew has brought down 177 receptions for 2173 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 12.3 yards per reception and 241.4 receiving yards per game.
Leading all 49ers receivers, TE Vernon Davis is averaging 13.9 yards per catch on 37 receptions for 513 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fellow TE Delanie Walker has seen less playing time, but has still managed 230 yards on 16 completions averaging a team best 14.4 yards per carry. Second year Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree has gained 446 yards and 4 touchdowns on 35 receptions.
With the victorious introduction of rookie Wide Receiver Jacoby Ford in a Raiders recent victory and stability at the quarterback position, fans expect an increase in productivity from the Raiders receiving core. Currently the Raiders are ranked 22nd in the league with 1961 yards on 150 receptions and 11 receiving touchdowns. Averaging 13.1 yards per reception and 217.9 yards per game, don’t be surprised to watch these numbers rise as chemistry develops between Campbell and his crew of young receivers.
Like the 49ers, the Raiders leading receiver is TE Zack Miller. On 34 receptions, Miller has gained 461 yards and scored 4 touchdowns, averaging 13.6 yards per reception.
Second on the team is the always trustworthy Luis Murphy who on 21 receptions has gained 337 yards and 1 touchdown while averaging 16 yards per reception. Second year receiver Darius Heyward-Bey has shown improvement over his rookie season but still lags behind his fellow receivers and outside one game, he has greatly failed to impress. Finally, be sure to pay attention because one does not want to get caught napping with newcomer Jacoby Ford making a name for himself in the NFL.
The Raiders lead the battle of first and third down efficiency while the 49ers claim the higher spot when it comes to converting on fourth down.
Ranked 13th and 25th respectively, the Raiders have managed 178 first downs to the 49ers 154. Ranked one behind the other, a 33.8% third down conversion rate has the Raiders ranked 27th one spot ahead of the 28th ranked 49ers with a rating of 33.3%.
On fourth downs, the 49ers are ranked third in the NFL having successfully converted six of their eight fourth down attempts. The Raiders are ranked 16th, successfully converting five of their eleven attempts.
When Patrick Willis decides he wants to tackle you, you might as well just fall down
After finishing the 2009 season as the league’s 26th ranked defense, the Raiders have definitely turned things around. Now ranked seventh in the NFL, mostly due to the shut down secondary, the Raiders are punishing offenses and impressing all watching, not just the fans at the Oakland Coliseum.
As a whole, the Oakland Raiders have allowed a total of 2786 yards averaging out to 309.6 yards per game and 188 total points. The 2nd ranked passing defense has allowed 1663 of these yards through the air along with 16 passing touchdowns. The other 1123 yards coming through the 25th ranked rush defense allowing 6 rushing touchdowns.
Across the Bay, the 49ers have struggled compared to the preseason expectation that they would be a league leading defense. Rather they remain right where they finished off last season dropping down one spot to the 16thranked defense in the NFL
Some believe that with the offensive struggles this season, the 49ers defense has been to heavily relied upon throughout their first seven games. As a result, the defense has struggled to match up to its preseason expectations of being one of the elite defenses in the NFL. They have not digressed, nor have they improved.
So far this season the defense has allowed 1983 total yards, averaging 331.4 per game and 198 points. The rushing defense, bolstered by the perennial pro bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, currently ranks 12th in the league allowing 906 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. However, as expected the 20th ranked secondary has continued to struggle at times allowing 2077 passing yards and 13 touchdowns.
While the 49ers defense has allowed less touchdowns than Oakland’s Defense, the Raiders have been much more efficient in denying opposing offenses yards and the team has relied heavier on the points scored by its defense and special teams.
Ranked fourth in the NFL with 27 sacks, the Raiders edged out the 49ers whose 20 sacks rank them in the middle of the pack at 15.
The Raiders again win the battle of turnovers with 14 total turnovers (5 Ints and 9 recovered fumbles) to the 49ers 12 total turnovers (8 INTs and 4 recovered fumbles)
Oakland leads across the board here.
Ranked ninth in the league, the Raiders have allowed 160 first downs compared to the 16th ranked 49ers who have allowed a total of 168. Ranked third in the NFL, opposing teams have converted on third down only 39 times against the Raiders this year while just behind them, the eight ranked 49ers have allowed 42 conversions so far. On fourth down, again the Raiders prevail with the seventh ranked Raiders defense stopping four of six fourth down attempts while the 12th ranked Niners defense have stopped the offense in two of the five attempts.
With only one special teams touchdown by either team being credited to the Raiders, Oakland leads the Niners in both punt and kick returns. The Raiders have 692 kickoff return yards to the 49ers 625 and 265 punt return yards to the 49ers 141.
When it comes to penalties, both teams have struggled mightily and if either team really wished to make a splash this season and make it to the playoffs, putting an end to these mindless mistakes must be the number one priority.
Ranked number one in the NFL, the Raiders have committed 91 penalties for a total of 794 yards while the 49ers, not far behind, ranked third, have committed 77 penalties for a total of 656 yards.
Without surprise and with one less home game in the books (the game in London is officially considered a home game) the 49ers dominate the battle of home game attendance averaging 69,732 fans per game and entertaining (or disappointing) a total of 278,926 fans this season. Through five games the Raiders have managed only 225,689 fans, averaging just 45,137 tickets sold per game. But congratulations to the Raiders for selling out the Coliseum for the first time since the opening game of the 2009 season.
The Battle of the Bay has a great history. It wasn't always played fair
It looks like there is a Cinderella story unfolding in San Francisco. Troy Smith tried on the glass slipper, and so far it fits. Without the flubs of four huge mental errors that resulted in the loss of three touchdowns and one interception that would have left the 49ers with a first and goal, the 49ers very well could have run away with one of the seasons worst beat downs of an opponent. Troy Smith is playing with poise and confidence and he is showing the world why there’s a Heisman Trophy sitting atop his mantle.
The Raiders meanwhile have morphed into an apparent super team. They beat their divisional rivals by three points assuring them a spot in First Place Land all by themselves, and this came after the Raiders spent the prior two weeks putting the shellacking of the season on both Denver and Seattle, winning the two games by a total of 92 -17!
Now what has to be the most important factor in deciding what side of the Bay houses the superior NFL team is the outcome of the game played between these two teams which ended with the 49ers winning their first game of the 2010 season by a final score of 17-9. And don’t forget, the 49ers also defeated the Raiders in September when they met each other at the Coliseum during in their annual preseason matchup. I know I know- Preseason doesn’t matter. But the Niners are still 2-0 against the Raiders in 2010.
So- You’ve got the numbers; you can see just where both teams stand. But the past cannot predict the future and no one knows where this season will take either team. Maybe the Giants left a little magic for their brothers on the Bay, and the cities euphoria of a Giants World Championship won’t have to just fade away, instead it will be passed on through the success of another Bay Area team. That’s probably not the case, nor the point of this article. But these are both teams on the rise, and it looks like finally, the true rivalry can be renewed.
Now you tell me - Who owns the Battle of the Bay?