The gap between 49ers, Raiders is closer than you think

Latest news

    And other questionable conditional statements

    On paper, the Oakland Raiders are a football team ready for the biggest stage.

    After all, as common wisdom holds, if it weren’t for an inopportune injury to Derek Carr last season, the Silver and Black would’ve been near shoo-ins for the AFC Championship.

    Having the face of the franchise go down in the last weekend of the season is a sick twist of fate, for sure, but you can’t overlook how they got to that point. (To say nothing of the fact that Brock Osweiler — a quarterback who couldn’t make the Cleveland Browns roster despite significant financial incentive to keep him around — was allowed to play his best game of his career as a starter in the Wild Card game).

    Ten of the Raiders’ 11 wins last season were by 10 points of fewer. Is that really a sustainable model?

    And that’s just one of several questions surrounding the East Bay’s NFL team (for a limited time only):

    — Will Donald Penn’s holdout have an adverse effect on one of the better offensive line in the league last season?

    — Are the fans, the best in the league, going to be cool with the fact that Mark Davis’ group is leaving?

    — Can Khalil Mack continue to win games by himself?

    They’re obviously the superior Bay Area team for now. But for how long?

    Down in Santa Clara, there’s new energy after Jed York finally jettisoned Trent Baalke and brought in a pair of professionals that can grow as a young unit together. If nothing else, it’ll be exciting — something Chip Kelly’s frenetic offense couldn’t provide.

    And what if I told you that the Raiders drew the fourth most-difficult schedule in the NFL, according to 2016 records? Meanwhile, the 49ers’ opponents had a combined winning percent under .500 last season.

    It isn’t a certainty, because nothing is in a league that basically distills down to a war of attrition. But don’t be surprised if the 49ers finish within two games of the Raiders in the standings.

    Ready the rookies

    Today’s game between the 49ers and the Carolina Panthers in Santa Clara should be interesting for several reasons.

    First, say the Niners pull off the upset: Vegas has set the over/under line of jokes your uncle makes comparing Kyle Shanahan to Jim Tomsula/Kelly at 6.5.

    But what it would really mean is that the youngsters on the 49ers’ roster are the real deal.

    “You always address the elephant in the room: I know people feel pressure and have some nerves,” Shanahan told reporters on Friday. “Usually, that goes once the game starts.”

    All eyes will be on rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who had one of the best preseasons of any linebacker in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

    He’ll be tested early against former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who will put stress on the whole defense with his route-running and versatility out of the backfield.

    NaVorro Bowman promised he’d ease some of Foster’s burden in that assignment, and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh gave the veteran a vote of confidence in that regard on Thursday. If the pair of linebackers succeed, it would signal a new era of 49ers defense.

    After missing most of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury, Bowman is eager to prove his doubters wrong. He doesn’t want to hear that he’s lost a step. He just wants to get out there and hit people again.

    Foster is the kind of talent that could rejuvenate Bowman’s career like NaVorro did for Patrick Willis. It won’t lead to the same kind of success, because Jim Harbaugh won’t be on the sideline maximizing everyone’s talents and ensuring his team wins at the point of attack, but it would be a welcome change.

    But that’s why they play the games, to turn these if-then statements into reality. Kickoff can’t come soon enough.

    Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

    Click here or scroll down to comment

    In Other News

    View the original article: to see original story and photos

    In the same category are

    Raiders late rally not enough to undo disastrous start in loss to Chiefs Facing a Kansas City Chiefs team that had dropped six of seven, the Oakland Raiders no-showed for three-and-a-half quarters on Sunday afternoon, falli...
    Grading the 49ers’ third quarter The 49ers enter the final quarter of the season with a winnable game and more hope than they’ve had in the last two seasons combined. Their third quar...
    Man robbed of laptop on Muni bus A 41-year-old man on a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency bus in the Mission District was attacked and had his laptop stolen by a group of ...
    49ers youth movement takes hold SANTA CLARA —  The 49ers entered the season with one of the youngest rosters in the league, and injuries at several key positions thrusted several ...
    SF puts strict limits on delivery robots After a six-month debate over delivery robots using San Francisco’s sidewalks, The City on Tuesday adopted tough restrictions on the automated devi...
    Raiders tied atop AFC West thanks to Marshawn Lynch’s banner day OAKLAND — After Marshawn Lynch’s best day as an Oakland Raider catapulted the club to a 24-17 win over the New York Giants and into a tie for first...

    Comment on this story