Although they're each doing it in completely different styles, Jim Harbough and Hue Jackson have to be pleased with the way the season has started for their two football teams as each the 49ers and Raiders moved to 2-1 over the weekend.
The 49ers are doing it behind some inspired defensive play, and the occasional clutch throw from Alex Smith, but they've gone 2-1 and have yet to get Frank Gore going, which only bodes well for when he does. Gore has been battling a bum ankle for a couple weeks know and it's showing in his running as he's lacking burst and explosiveness that normally are the staple of his running style. It was hard to watch him on Sunday vs. the Bengals, then see Kendal Hunter come in and provide a noticeable difference. A lot of football people, especially fantasy football, believe Frank Gore is on the downhill side of his career already, but I don't believe that to be the case. Number 21 is still a top-10 back when he's healthy, but he's obviously not, and the 49ers O-line has struggled a bit in run blocking. Luckily though, the 49ers do have a guy like Hunter who showed his value with a big TD run vs. the Bengals Sunday, and should be given at least 30-40% of Gore's workload until his health improves. Hopefully he'll be ready for a bit match-up next week vs. Philly, but even if he is, I think Alex Smith is going to have to win this game for San Fran as they're most certainly going to have to at least double their 13-point output to even have a shot vs. Vick and LeSean McCoy.
While the Niners have been conservative in their offensive approach so far, the Raiders have been dynamic. The reason why they've been so dynamic is because of a very real, early season MVP candidate in Darren McFadden. Run DMC has built upon his solid 2010 campaign and is doing to opposing defenses what Arian Foster did last year, tearing them up on both the ground and through the air. In a game against an AFC favorite in the New York Jets, all the Raiders did was put up 34 points vs. the daunted defense and win the game by a convincing 10-points. Jason Campbell has been strong so far through 3 weeks, but it really wasn't about him on Sunday as D Mac went for 179 yards and 2 scores on just 19 carries, making a super bowl caliber defense look desperately over-matched in the process. This win really opened my eyes to the Raiders, and now have me believing this team has a more than legit shot at winning a declining AFC West. The Broncos and Chiefs are essential non-factors, but the Raiders will have a tough challenge in getting by the San Diego Cheifs, a team that's been a thorn in their side for the better part of this century. I do think that the Raiders finally have a dynamic enough offense, with McFadden established and Denarius Moore looking like one of the better rookie receivers in football, and their run defense is playing at a very high level. Between Moore and McFadden, the Raiders have themselves an explosive, young 1-2 punch offensively. They're still giving up too many big passing plays, but that's about the only area in which this team hasn't shined early in 2011.
We'll have much more on the upcoming games this Sunday inlcluding the Raiders and 49ers Previews, and a little Stanford/Cal football as well.