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: