San Francisco 49ers vs. Oakland Raiders: Complete Week 14 Preview for Oakland
The Oakland Raiders are coming off of not only their worst loss of the season, but one of the worst losses in the team's history. They've had a week to get over it, and they'll have a chance at redemption when they host their rivals from across the bay. Kickoff is this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.
The San Francisco 49ers have spent all season dealing with a weakened roster. Despite that, they've still managed to put together a 7-5 record and remain in the playoff hunt. They can't afford to leave any wins on the table.
With the way the Raiders have played, San Francisco definitely has this week's game penciled in as a win. Oakland has to be ready for a team that's coming in expecting to dominate.
Even though the Raiders are sitting at 1-11, they're certainly not as bad as they looked last week. They had been playing much better since the bye week, and the win was a long time coming. The only thing to do with last week's performance is to forget about it and get back to the level of play the team had been showing before that.
Regardless of the two teams' records, this game is a rivalry. There are bragging rights on the line, and neither team will be thinking of the standings when it steps on the field. It's going to be an emotional, intense game, and the Raiders will be playing in front of their home crowd. They need to use this as motivation.
Here's a full breakdown of what the Raiders need to do to redeem themselves after last week's humiliating loss and pick up their second win in this Sunday's Battle of the Bay.
Week 13 Recap
Sometimes, a final score is misleading, but it's not in this case. The Oakland Raiders were completely outplayed in every aspect of the game. They lost by more than 50 points for only the third time in their history, and the result was justified.
Everything that could go wrong against the St. Louis Rams did go wrong. The Raiders entered the game flat, and the game was over from the opening kickoff. No matter what aspect of Oakland's performance you look at, it was a failure.
Defensively, the Raiders were run off the field from the first possession. Career backup Shaun Hill threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for another one. Tre Mason rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 8.4 yards per carry. In the air and on the ground, Oakland was picked apart.
The offense was just as bad. The Raiders finished with five turnovers, and they came from everywhere. Derek Carr threw two interceptions. Matt Schaub entered the game to replace him and was in long enough to lose a fumble and throw a pick-six. And the usually sure-handed Marcel Reece lost a fumble as well.
Even in a loss, a team can usually find something positive to take away. But that's not the case here. There's no way to accurately describe Oakland's performance other than to call it bad. The Raiders didn't show up for a single minute of the game.
The performance was so terrible that it was almost fascinating to watch. But while the loss itself was bad enough, perhaps even more disappointing was that it came after Oakland's first win of the season. The team finally figured out a winning formula, but it didn't apply it against St. Louis.
The good news? Even if Oakland has another bad game, it won't be as bad as this.
News and Notes
Harbaugh to Oakland: More Reality than Fantasy?
The rumors that Jim Harbaugh's days with the 49ers are numbered have been circulating since before training camp. It's no secret that his relationship with the front office has been growing more and more strained. Since then, reports have suggested that the relationship has gone from strained to irreparable.
It's strange to think that a team can't find a way to work with a coach who's brought the team so much success. He's accumulated a record of 43-16-1, including 5-3 in the playoffs, and an NFC championship since taking over.
Some critics will point to this season's results as a sign of Harbaugh's decline, but the fact is that the San Francisco roster has been thin due to injuries and legal troubles. Despite that, he's still led his team to a respectable 7-5 record.
There's no question that Harbaugh will be a hot commodity when he becomes available, and the Raiders continue to be named among the front-runners for his services. More importantly, this rumor actually makes a lot of sense. Harbaugh has always spoken highly of Al Davis and the Raiders, and he maintains genuine respect for the organization from his days as an assistant coach with Oakland more than a decade ago.
In a discussion with B/R's Adam Lefkoe, Chris Simms notes that for some reason, the coach just isn't very likable. But Lefkoe makes a great observation: "The Raiders like people not liking them" (check out the interview here). The same thing that's forcing him out of San Francisco could prove to be the very thing that makes him feel right at home in Oakland.
At one point, this seemed like a pipe dream. But now, it seems more and more like a very real possibility.
Rod Streater began the season as one of Oakland's starting wide receivers, and the hope was for him to build off of last year's breakout performance. But those hopes quickly went up in smoke when he went down with a foot injury in Week 3 that required surgery.
He's been rehabbing since, and it was a matter of if, not when, he would return to the field. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Vic Tafur, that could happen this week.
Streater was expected to be a game-changer for the Raiders, and he still could be whenever he returns. Of course, it's far too late to help the team this year. But it's important to get Streater back on the field if possible to see what he's truly capable of.
With a record of 1-11, all of Oakland's attention has shifted to 2015. With only four games to go and a lot of players expected not the return, the Raiders need to see who's worth keeping around for next year's rebuild. If he can, Streater needs to play and show that he should remain a major part of Oakland's plans.
Moore as Good as Gone
A lot of things have to go wrong for a team to go 1-11. For the Raiders, one of the most glaring problems has been the lack of production at wide receiver. A major factor in this has been the absence of Streater. But just as impactful has been the disappearing act of Denarius Moore.
Since joining the team, Moore has teased with his potential, but he's never been able to consistently tap into it. It seemed as if the coaches had finally grown weary of his inconsistency, and Moore was relegated to special teams. But now that isn't even a possibility, as he was a healthy scratch from last week's game.
This benching seemed to be the result of Moore's big fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs in Oakland's Week 12 win. But Tafur reported that, according to Tony Sparano, it had more to do with the improved play of Kenbrell Thompkins and Vincent Brown.
This might be true, but that doesn't make Moore look any better. That means he was replaced by two receivers who have combined for only 18 catches. CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair reported that when Streater returns, he's most likely to replace Moore on the active roster, pushing Oakland's former No. 1 receiver even further out of the picture.
The team has been patient with Moore, but he's shown that he can't be depended on. He's played himself out of games. Now, it seems that he's played himself off the team.
The Life and Times of an NFL Rookie Quarterback
After earning the starting role in the preseason, Derek Carr has shown potential, but he's more often looked like the inexperienced rookie that he is. The good plays had become fewer and far between recently, and his drop in performance finally culminated this past week when he was benched in the second half following his worst performance of the season.
While many Oakland fans remain unconvinced that Carr is the answer at quarterback, the faith from the coaches and scouts remains. Michael Wagaman of ESPN.com (h/t Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper) noted that Carr remains Oakland's starting quarterback. And JustBlogBaby's Chase Ruttig reports that scouts around the league actually prefer Carr to the more successful Colin Kaepernick:
According to some scouts the Oakland Raiders quarterback [Derek Carr] is preferred over the other passer from across the bay in Colin Kaepernick. ... 95.7 The Game host John Middlekauff polled various NFL scouts who voted 5-0 in favor of Carr as the quarterback they would want to lead their franchise.
It has to be noted that Carr has been placed in a very difficult position. He didn't join a team where he could contribute to winning efforts. Instead, he was asked to carry the offense while being given few weapons to work with.
That's a tough task for any quarterback in the NFL, much less a rookie. He was always going to have his struggles, and the shortcomings of the players around him have made it that much more difficult to succeed.
This isn't to excuse Carr, who's certainly experienced growing pains. At times, he has failed to identify open receivers, he's missed some throws and several of his 11 interceptions were the result of bad decisions.
But his struggles shouldn't detract from the good he's done or the real potential that he possesses. Carr going through some ups and downs isn't a surprise. It should be seen as what it is, which is a learning experience to build on for next season.
|Carlos Rogers||CB||Out for Season|
|Rod Streater||WR||Short-term Injured Reserve|
|Latavius Murray||RB||Will Play|
After missing four games and not showing any significant improvement, the Raiders have finally placed Carlos Rogers on season-ending injured reserve. It's a disappointing end to a disappointing campaign for the veteran cornerback. But after being out for so long, Oakland has rebuilt its secondary without him. DJ Hayden will remain the starter opposite Tarell Brown, and T.J. Carrie will continue to get significant playing time.
Thorpe could've benefited from Rogers' absence, but his entire season has been derailed by injuries. He's still dealing with a hand injury. Even if he is available, he'll see limited time at most.
Brown is dealing with a foot injury, and he's been limited in practice because of it. However, he has been active, and there's been no indication that it'll keep him out of Sunday's game.
Watson left last week's game with an ankle and foot injury, and he's yet to return to practice. Fortunately, Gabe Jackson has returned, so he'll step back in at left guard, and Khalif Barnes will once again fill in at right tackle.
Brian Leonhardt has also missed practice all week as he's still dealing with a concussion. The Raiders are already thin at tight end, with Mychal Rivera currently the only other tight end on the active roster. If Leonhardt can't play, Oakland could activate Scott Simonson from the practice squad or enter Sunday's game with only one tight end active.
Streater has been working his way back since Week 3, and it's just a matter of time before he returns. It could be as soon as this week. Generally, you wouldn't expect a player coming off of injured reserve to play a significant role. But with how inconsistent the wide receivers have been, Streater has a good chance of getting plenty of snaps as soon as he's available, which could be this week.
The good news is the return of Murray. He's cleared all of the concussion tests, and he's been a full participant in practice. He should be a major part of Oakland's offensive game plan against the 49ers.
All injury statuses and updates taken from CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair.
X-Factor and Matchups to Watch
Justin Tuck and C.J. Wilson vs. Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick has thrown for 15 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, but he's also been sacked 38 times, more that any quarterback in the league. He's always depended on his legs to succeed, but now teams have figured out a way to keep him in the pocket. He struggles to go through his reads, and his effectiveness has been greatly reduced.
On Sunday, the responsibility for this will fall on Tuck and Wilson. Defensive ends make the highlights by getting sacks, but setting the edge is just as important a role. It'll be crucial that they don't get caught up in chasing the quarterback. More important than picking up sacks will be the job they do keeping Kaepernick from getting outside the pocket.
San Francisco's offensive line will give up sacks, but they'll have to come from other players. Tuck and Wilson's primary role will be to funnel Kaepernick into the teeth of the defense.
Derek Carr vs. San Francisco Secondary
Carr is coming off of his worst performance, and it won't be easy to bounce back from it against a stout 49ers secondary. But he's responsible for leading an effective offense. For that to happen, he's going to have to find a way to be productive through the air.
This is as much the responsibility of the wide receivers as it is of the quarterback. But despite the struggles they've had, they can get open. When they do, Carr needs to be able to find them. There might not be to many chances for big gains. When they do present themselves, he has to maximize the opportunities.
Khalil Mack vs. Joe Staley
Like Carr, Mack had the worst game of his rookie year last week. He finished with a single tackle, and he was a total non-factor as a pass-rusher and in run defense. To bounce back, he's going to have to find a way to beat San Francisco's three-time Pro Bowl left tackle.
Despite Staley's impressive resume, he's part of an offensive line that's given up 38 sacks. Like the rest of the defense, Mack has to forget last week's performance and get back to the level of play that he's exhibited all season.
To succeed against Staley, Mack needs to incorporate a bull rush to try to get him on his heels. But more importantly, Mack has to rely on his speed and quickness. He'll have opportunities to get into the backfield. Once he's there, it'll be a question of how to bring down the elusive Kaepernick.
Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite
Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew have struggled all season. A primary reason for this has been the coaches not using them in a way that plays to their strengths. While both running backs can be effective as receivers, they haven't had enough opportunities to catch passes. But this should be a focus against the San Francisco linebackers.
Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton notes that Borland and Wilhoite have struggled in pass protection, which has left the 49ers defense weak over the middle. The Raiders have the running backs to exploit this weakness, and they have to take advantage of the opportunity.
Latavius Murray will return this Sunday, and he should see plenty of time on the field. But the coaches have also shown that they are committed to McFadden and Jones-Drew, despite their lack of production. When they're on the field, they have to be a major part of the passing game.
X-Factor of the Week: Latavius Murray
Murray has only been featured in the offense twice. On both occasions, he provided a spark for the offense that's been otherwise absent. Against the 49ers, he'll once again be on the field, and the Raiders need to get him as many touches as possible.
Murray's made an impact in only two performances: Week 11 against the San Diego Chargers and Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs. In two games, he produced 155 yards and two touchdowns. On only eight carries, he produced more than McFadden and Jones-Drew had all year.
After missing last week's game with a concussion, Murray will return to action. McFadden will remain the starter, but Murray should get touches early and often. He's been Oakland's most effective offensive player, but it's been in very limited action. Against San Francisco, Oakland has to give him plenty of touches and see what he's really capable of.
On paper, this should be a very close matchup. The Raiders might be a little short on talent, but they have enough to challenge the 49ers. Add to that the rivalry element and the fact that Oakland is playing at home, and you should end up with a close, intense game.
Unfortunately, the Raiders have been frustratingly inconsistent. The team does have some areas in which it could excel, but the coaches haven't taken advantage of any of them.
An effective pass rush could get to Colin Kaepernick. A smart offensive game plan could make the running backs a key part of the passing attack to exploit the San Francisco linebackers' weakness in pass coverage. But the coaching staff has done nothing to suggest that it'll take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.
Even with the return of Latavius Murray, Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew will still be considered key parts of the offense. They've been ineffective, and that'll continue, once again leaving the offense without an effective rushing attack.
This will lead to more three-and-outs, which will lead to the defense wearing down as the game progresses. As has been the case in most games, the defense will come out fighting, but it'll eventually break under the pressure of too many snaps and too much time on the field.
It won't be a blowout, but Kaepernick and Frank Gore will make enough plays to break the 20-point mark. The Oakland offense won't be able to keep up, and San Francisco will walk away with a win.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Oakland 13
Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from ESPN.com.
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