So, I wanted do a little something different this week, it's actually something I've been meaning to get to each week since the start of the NFL season, but this is the first time I'm actually going to posting a match-up preview/prediction of Sunday's Niners and Raiders games. So here we go:
49ers @ Falcons
I talked a lot about this game and how important it will be for the Niners in our last post here at BASJ, so I'm not going to repeat everything again, so this preview will be short and sweet. Of course I'd like to see them get Frank Gore established early, cause it will open up the passing game, but I also would like to see Alex Smith take shots downfield right off the bat in order to keep the Falcons guessing. The 49ers need to get out to an early lead, and actually get into the end-zone early on in order to give their offense a push in the right direction. When they get down inside the red zone, and fail to score touchdowns early, I think it's going to be another long Sunday afternoon in ATL. I'm not so much worried about bull-dozing back Michael Turner as I am Matt Ryan picking apart the Niners secondary (who are now without starting SS Michael Lewis who basically quit Friday), who've allowed every QB they've faced this year a QB rate of 108 or higher. For a defense that was supposed to be a top-10 defense coming into the year, that's pretty bad (even more so considering they let Matt Cassell rate over 111 vs. the Chiefs last week). That said, I still think the 49ers very much have a shot in this game. If they get that offense going early, then the defense will respond. Still though, the games in Atlanta, and the Falcons are a tough team. If I were to wager on this game, I'd take the Falcons in a close one, 28-24.
Texans @ Raiders
The Raiders play host to the high-powered Houston Texans this week in Oakland, and typically, this preview would be a few sentences stating how the Raiders would essentially need a miracle to win this football game. However, the Raiders are a completely new team this year, and although they're still just 1-2, they just as easily could be 2-1, and they're playing with confidence right now. The Raiders secondary, which is one of the best in the NFL, will have their hands full, and will get a true test in covering Houston's trio of Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, and they can't lose site of TE Owen Daniels, who's just waiting for his breakout game for 2010. The real challenge for the Raiders though, will be to slow down 2010's biggest breakout star, RB Arian Foster (who leads the league with 406 rush yards and 3 TD's). The Raiders should really take a look at what Dallas did to Matt Schaub last week (blitzes and a ton of pressure), and try to best mimic that this Sunday. Foster's likely to get his 100+ yards regardless, so they must stop Houston's aerial attack. Of all underdogs this week, I think the Raiders really do have the best shot at the upset. Their two first round picks from '08 and '09 (Darren McFadden and Derrius Heyward-Bey) are starting to really play like first rounders, and 2nd year wideout Louis Murphy is rounding into a true #1 WR (300 yards and a score over his last 4 games), something the Raiders haven't had since Tim Brown (sorry, but Randy Moss wasn't a #1 while in Oakland). With Gradkowski behind center in the 3 games he's played with Louis Murphy, the wideout has been elite; 15 catches, 338 yards and 3 TD's. Unfortunately, the Raiders top-2 wide receivers could miss Sunday's game. Murphy has a banged up collarbone and DHB has a bum groin. Missing those two would be a big blow to the Raiders offense and certainly effect the outcome. If they both play and are healthy enough to be effective, I might be crazy, but I actually think it will open it up for DMac to go nuts (150+ yards, 2 TD's) and the Raiders to win it, 27-24. Without Murph and DHB, the Texans take it, 28-13.