The 2011 football season has started off very well for 3 of the Bay Area's, and for the first time in about 10 years, the Bay Area is looking set to produce at least one NFL playoff team, and quite possibly NCAA's top football program in the Stanford Cardinal.
We'll start off with the Cardinal, who we haven't talked a lot about this season, mostly because the Raiders and 49ers have started off so well and have been getting most of our attention. The Cardinal, however, have placed themselves squarely on the map as one of the nations best teams (ranked 6 heading into play Saturday) and could very well find themselves playing for a national championship in January if things go their way. Their prized arm and leader, Andrew Luck, has done everything that was expected of him coming into the year, and some, as he's looking like a lock to be the first player taken in next April's NFL Draft. Through 3 games so far, Luck has thrown for 786 yards with 8 TD's compared to just 1 pick and a rushing score, leading the Cardinal to a 3-0 record. Helping Luck on the offensive side of things for Stanford has been their star Junior tailback Stefan Taylor (281 rush yards, 2 TD), as well as Sophomore Tight End, Zach Ertz (3 rec. TD's) and Senior wideout Chris Owusu (227 rec. yards). Behind these talented offensive weapons and a stubborn, underrated defense, the Cardinal have cruised to a 3-0 record, and they really haven't started clicking on all cylinders quite yet. Just goes to show you how dominant this team can be, and I will be watching closely tonight as they take on UCLA down on the farm. UCLA is a mess, so I expect Stanford to put up W by a wide margin; Prediction: Cardinal 48, Bruins 19
Back to the NFL, where the Raiders and 49ers each shoot for the 3rd victory Sunday. The Raiders will have their work cut out for them, as they host the New England Patriots, but after the way they've started the season, I wouldn't count them out of this game at all. What does really hurt is they'll be without starting corner Chris Johnson, who's been the best corner for the Raiders early on in 2011 in my opinion. Oakland will just need to gear up for Tom Brady and hope to contain him. They don't really need to worry about New England's rushing attack, as they've yet to really get that going this year, so if the Raiders can keep them a one dimensional offense and get to Brady a few times like Buffalo did last week, then they'll be very much alive in this game. They're getting their offense going themselves, so they'll be a handful for New England, who have been exposed badly through the air early on. I expect them to have trouble with Darren McFadden as well, so I don't see the Raiders having trouble putting up points in this one. It's going to come down to which team can reduce turnovers and control the game clock, and the Raiders are very good in both areas, but they're facing Tom Brady, who can throw for 400 yards in his sleep these days. Prediction: Patriots 38 - Raiders 27
The 49ers will have their hands full against a hungry, yet banged up Eagles squad. The 49ers looked as if they were sitting pretty early in the week, as Michael Vick's availability for the game after breaking his non-throwing hand was very much in the air. However, Vick improved throughout the week, and appears fully ready to go Sunday, and if he does, look out 49ers secondary, because I think this guy will be determined. The 49ers barely squeaked by the Bengals last week, despite getting an exceptional defensive performance. Like their baseball brethren the Giants, the 49ers have had a wretched offensive showing so far in 2011, yet they've managed to get off to a 2-1 start. This week though, they won't have a chance to win if they score just 14 points. They'll likely need to put up at least 2.5 times that output against a hungry Vick, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. They have so much speed on offense that I just can't see the 49ers keeping up with all of them. I do think they'll hold McCoy in check in the run game, but I just can't help but think of the Dallas game when a broken Tony Romo came in and picked this offense apart. Unfortunately, I see Vick doing very much of the same thing. Also, the 49ers have yet to get Frank Gore going this year, and probably won't have a chance to open up the passing game against this secondary, so offensively, they'll have their hands full as well. Prediction: Eagles 31 - 49ers 16