With the Raiders’ looming departure to Sin City, Thursday night may very well be the final Battle of the Bay.
Based on the records, this game looks more like a fight to avoid the No. 1 overall pick. Just don’t tell that to Oakland head coach Jon Gruden.
Either way, the Week 9 matchup features two teams striving to salvage what they can in the midst of disappointing seasons.
For a 49ers team dealing with a plethora of injuries, playing on a short week will be extra challenging. Head coach Kyle Shanahan might even have to turn to his third quarterback this season, second-year man Nick Mullens. According to Shanahan, C.J. Beathard hurt his wrist this past Sunday when he hit it on a helmet while throwing.
Shanahan said that Beathard hasn’t been able to hold a football comfortably since Sunday, and it seems like his status won’t be known until right around game-time:
“C.J. would be good if we were playing on Sunday. But it’s going to be a test for Thursday, and probably won’t know until then.”
As for the potential fill-in, Shanahan thinks Mullens has the ability to play well despite limited meaningful time:
“I thought he played well in the preseason. He did good. Nick comes in there, moves the chains, competes hard, made some plays with his legs and his arm. Guys believe in him and he’s as competitive and confident as a guy I’ve been around. If he needs to play this week, he’ll be on it.”
Shanahan also believes Mullens knows the playbook well enough to be effective:
“He’s been here for a year-and-a-half, the whole time we’ve been here. So Nick’s as prepared to call the plays and get everyone in the right spots as anyone we could have out there.”
The quarterback decision might not even matter all that much this week since either signal-caller will likely be utilizing the backfield heavily. The Raiders are the doormat of rushing defense, allowing a league-worst 144.7 yards per game. On the flip side, The 49ers have the 7th-best ground game at 133.6 yards per game.
With that being the only glaring mismatch between the two teams, it may just come down to who can be less worse.
Neither team scores much, but both allow them in bunches. So it’s hard to say who has a clear advantage. However, with Antone Exum Jr. ruled out, and both Jaquiski Tartt and Richard Sherman questionable, the Oakland passing game will face a very weak 49ers secondary. Combine that with an Oakland offense coming off its second four-plus touchdown game of the season and, San Francisco won’t have enough to slow down Derek Carr and his receivers.
The Raiders win this game 33-26.