BayAreaBall Musings – 49ers and Raiders Week 3
BayAreaBall Musings will be our weekly attempt to take a light hearted look at a weekly topic based on the back and forth conversations of our writers.
Aaron Rubenstein: Alright Frank, let’s shift gears for a week and take a look at the early returns on the Bay Area’s two NFL teams. I know it’s early and everything but the Raiders and 49ers sure seem like they’re heading in different directions. How are you feeling about the Raiders and their prospects in the AFC West this year?
I’m going to do my best not to be a smug 49ers fan during this conversation. It’s going to be tough though given that week 1 saw the Raiders unable to snap the ball on punts and in week 2 they gave up 35 pts to Reggie Bush and a rookie QB.
Frank Gomez: Why do you have to drudge up old memories like that Aaron? Hold on, I need another sip of this Belvedere since the last 2 Raiders games and their outcomes have driven me to drink. First off, WTF GOETHEL!!! Seriously, I don’t think that anyone could have done a worse job at long snapping once the Raiders starting long snapper Jon Condo got knocked out of the Monday night game with head trauma. Honestly, Travis Goethel had to be thinking that getting asked to be the long snapper was just a bad joke. I’m sure he probably padded his football resume a little by thinking, “Hey you know what I’ll just say that I also do long snapping. Who is gonna check that? Seriously no one will know that I haven’t done it since high school and plus it’ll make the Raiders think that I’m a little more valuable than I really am. Plus it’ll get me outta 2 a days during training camp because I gotta go practice long snapping. Bwhahahahaha, this plan is fool proof.” Yeah, great job again Goethel.
Then you have the annual cross country early game beat down at the hands of lame and crappy Miami Dolphins and I’m almost ready to throw up the white flag. You have Greg Knapp turning a perfectly great running back in Darren McFadden into some 3rd string garbage time back. I guess you can blame the zone blocking scheme but the new Raiders coaching staff had an entire off-season and full training camp to at least lay a foundation for it and look what they have done: take a rushing attack that was ranked 7th in the league last year and moved it ALL the way down to 31 with a whopping 68 yds. Wait you might be saying that has to be a typo, only 68 yards. NOPE! 68 whole yards have been gained in 2 games with a 2.0 yd/carry average. So not only are Raiders fans pissed at Gregg Knapp, but fantasy owners want to draw and quarter Knapp as well.
Now there is a silver and black lining I guess and that is the fact that the Raiders passing attack is tied for 3rd right now. But if I’m speaking honestly and sans silver and black tinted glasses, Carson Palmer averaging 47 attempts per game means that something is going terribly wrong with the offense. While Palmer is proving to be a damn good fantasy start it is not translating into wins for the Raiders with him throwing so much. McFadden needs to become a part of the offense within the next 2 games and if he doesn’t, ohhhh God I shudder to think what the rest of the season is going to look like. But go ahead Aaron, gloat about how awesome the Niners defense looks and how much better this team looks then even many of the die-hard fans may have thought. Alex Smith still can’t throw a pass farther than 8 yards with any accuracy but he really doesn’t have to with the defense being able to hold down other offenses to 3 and outs. Even as a big time Smith skeptic, this year Alex has transformed into a more confident QB and is definitely more than a game manager. So I’ll ask what if any holes can you see in the Niners and if there is something that keeps you up about the teams Super Bowl chances what is it? Oh hey, I’m out of vodka. I’ll be back..
AR: So basically you give the Raiders about a B? B-? I have to say that Carson Palmer deal looked bad at the time it was made and looks even worse now. The idea that a QB is going to step in, with no camp and without knowing the offense, and carry the team to the Super Bowl was laughable. How much better off would the Raiders be with another year or two of Jason Campbell and a developmental QB like Russell Wilson? Al Davis loved trading picks for established players but I’m not sure he’d have made that deal given that Palmer hadn’t actually been an elite QB in like 5 years. But I digress…
I’m obviously feeling pretty good about the 49ers right now. The secondary looks even better than it did last year and the front 7 is still as good as it gets in the NFL. On offense Smith looks much more confident and in command than he did at the beginning of 2011, Michael Crabtree’s numbers aren’t eye-popping but he looks better than he ever has, Vernon Davis is picking up right where he left off in the playoffs, and Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are forming an effective two headed monster on the ground. When you look at the 49ers it’s hard to find a real weakness.
That said, this is the NFL and injuries happen every week. While the 49ers have depth in a lot of places there are a couple of players they just can’t afford to lose for any extended period of time and if I have a concern that’s what it is right now. That’s not to say any other team is in better shape because with the salary cap every team has players they just can’t afford to effectively replace. As far as I can tell the 49ers would be in trouble if Justin Smith or Vernon Davis were to go down to any kind of season ending type of injury. Smith is a dominant player that takes every snap and we don’t know much about the guys behind him on the depth chart, so losing him would be a major blow that I’m not sure the 49ers could recover from. They’d certainly be put in a position where they’d need the offense to score more points. On the other side of the ball there’s depth at WR and in the backfield but Vernon Davis is such an explosive player both in the passing game and in the rushing attack that the 49ers offense would have to make some major adjustments if they had to go on without him. Delanie Walker is a nice player who has developed into a great blocker but he’s had some issues with drops the first 2 weeks and he’s not the gamebreaking athlete that Davis is. There would also be some issues if either safety went down or if there was an injury to one of the offensive tackles since most of the depth on the line is on the interior. As good as Smith looks now I think they could bring in Colin Kaepernick and still find a way to move the ball, but Smith and Davis simply can’t be replaced.
There are some other more minor issues out there too I suppose. The coverage on punts and kickoffs has left a lot to be desired thus far and with the way the 49ers play close games you wonder if that’s going to hurt them at some point. It’s reasonable to wonder if they’re peaking too soon I guess, but it’s really injuries that are my biggest concern.
Is this season already looking lost for the Raiders or can they climb back into the AFC West race? Are you already starting to think about draft position and if so, is it time to finally make a significant investment in the offensive and defensive lines? Is there another area where you think they need an infusion of first round talent more? I think hiring McKenzie was a good move but I also think this is probably going to be a 3 year process, which brings me back to the Carson Palmer trade and why it was/is so questionable. If it is the case that McKenzie is just starting a 3 year process it sure seems like the Raiders could end up with a solid roster that’s in need of a QB. I mean Palmer’s already 32 and might be 35 or 36 by the time the Raiders have a complete roster in place.
FG: I’m not sure if it’s the vodka or the amount of questions that is making me dizzy Aaron but here it goes. First off, the season isn’t lost just yet because both the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos are still not as good as everyone predicted. While the San Diego Chargers are playing a lot better than I expected, I think Norv Turner will eventually find a way to turn that around. The problem is the Raiders need to get a win this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers just to keep pace. I’ll make a decision on the Raiders after 4 games and whether or not I should be prepping my draft board early this year. But let’s say for arguments sake that I have to start preparing a draft board right now, the biggest need for the Raiders will be on the defensive side.
Now I’m not sure whether they will need more help in the secondary or the linebacking core because both are pretty brutal right now but any help in those two areas, if addressed in the first round, would be a godsend. On to the bigger question, Carson Palmer. Hold on on while I down this vodka… Uggggh, ok now I’m ready. After giving up so much for Palmer and no matter what the pundits say, the guy is well past his prime and in an offensive system that is completely out of character for him. I guess I could long for the days of Hue Jackson and his damn irish coffee when Darren McFadden was unstoppable and the offense was the least of my worries but those memories have been locked away in a far off place only to be brought out when criticizing Greg Knapp. Oh that’s already happening, well the booze must be setting in. Unless Palmer gets on a serious cycle of HGH, bionic elbow, and a futuristic mech suit he is only going to get worse. I shudder to think what he is going to look like at 36 but hopefully McKenzie does know what he’s doing and is able to luck out in the draft.
On a side note, everyone keeps saying Reggie McKenzie knows what he is doing, especially all the NFL lifers and talking heads which I guess is great. But these are also the same people that said Matt Millen was doing a great job with the Detroit Lions until he magically got fired and then everyone changed their tune and started piling on. I’m willing to give Mckenzie 3 years and he’s already on the clock in year one and if the team doesn’t start showing some signs of life soon Raider Nation will start to get even more anxious and impatient than it already is.
Alright Aaron let’s finish off this weeks musings strong with some predictions for tomorrow’s games for both the Niners and Raiders. I’ll start it off:
Raiders 22, PIttsburgh Steelers 21: Raiders win on a 59 yard field goal by Sea Bass and get off the schnide with a 22-21 victory. I have Janikowski kicking 5 FG’s so fantasy owners get him on that starting squad bright and early.
Niners 24, Minnesota Vikings 12: Oh god it pains me to say this even now but the Niners are good and I don’t see much changing against the Vikings. Sure AD, Adrian Peterson, is back after making a deal with the devil to get back from a torn ACL and MCL in what seems like 6 weeks. But the niners run defense will stuff AD and anyone else who decides to run the ball for the Vikings. I think Randy Moss gets one TD against his old team but his Minnesota days are long gone so the need to make it seem like there is some type of retribution is blah. Smith has another good day throwing 35, 6 yard passes that go for 15 yards thus inflating his QB rating once again and leading the niners to a 3-0 start. Also take any action on Smith wearing a Giants hat since there is a complete and utter pride week love fest going on with both teams. If I were a fan of both teams it would be pretty cool, since I’m not it just seems like a…ya know I’m just gonna go ahead and stop right there. I’m bitter and I don’t care. You’re up Aaron, I have a date with the bottom of a vodka bottle…
AR: Maybe I wasn’t clear enough when I was talking about McKenzie. I don’t know enough about him to know whether he’s got a plan to get the Raiders back on track or not. What I meant by him being a good hire is that finally the Raiders are building a more traditional front office with someone who is actually in tune with the rest of the league in charge. Sometimes bringing in guys from successful teams works and sometimes it doesn’t, so only time will tell if McKenzie is the right guy. It was a hire that had to be made and I would urge some patience from Raider Nation because McKenzie inherited a mess. He didn’t have a full slate of draft picks to work with (and won’t in 2013 either thanks to Hue), it’s unclear how many of the current players will still be around in 3 years when the rebuild is finally nearing completion, and oh yeah, the salary cap was a mess and forced him to dump some players he probably would have wanted to keep. If the Raiders can’t find a way to pull it together this year it might be a while before they’re able to fulfill the commitment to excellence.
All I can tell you as someone who lived through Terry Donahue and John York and Dennis Erickson and Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary is that it’s worth the wait. It’s painful and it’s frustrating and it can feel like hopeless but if you can make it through to the other side you’ll appreciate it that much more.
Steelers 24, Raiders 12: I’m with you on the Janikowski Field Goal Festival, I’m just less with you on the TD front. The Steelers offensive line is kind of a mess but they’re still a good team and so far the Raiders can’t say the same.
49ers 31, Vikings 13: The Vikings will try to run the ball and the 49ers will stop them (feel free to copy and paste that each week for the rest of the season). I think Crabtree gets into the endzone and, with the Vikings forced to put the ball in Christian Ponder’s hands in the 2nd half, this might be the week the defense gets on the board too.
The Giants have clinched and the A’s are looking like a pretty solid bet to do the same this week so we may have playoff matchups to talk about next week. Until then my friend.
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