Well, I wouldn't have thought I'd be saying this at the beginning of the football season, but I believe Alex Smith has elevated himself as the Bay Area's top QB (professional that is) now with Jason Campbell out for the year.
The Raiders paid dearly to put their faith in Carson Palmer as their answer at QB for the near-term future, but against a very beatable Chiefs defense, Palmer looked downright horrible, tossing 3 picks, 0 TD's and completed just 8 of 21 pass attempts in over a half of play. I can't even imagine what those numbers would have been like had they been facing a formidable secondary like New York or Philly, but regardless, it's not a good sign for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders basically gambled their next two top draft picks away with the hope that Palmer is their QB for at least those next 2 seasons and hopefully beyond, but he's got a long, long way to go before he starts paying for the Silver and Black. Now, I do expect Palmer to improve, and vastly. It was his first game in 2011, and he had about 2 full days of practice with his teammates going in, so things will undoubtedly get better for Palmer, but the fact that he was that bad should cause some concern. I was thinking the Raiders were getting an improvement over Campbell in Palmer, but I'm not sure that's going to be the case. Campbell was a perfect fit for this run-first Raider offense, and now with Palmer behind center, it's going to force Hue Jackson to call more passing plays. It's basically changed the identity of the Oakland Raiders, but the do have the bye this week, and when Palmer lines up behind center next time, we'll get a clearer picture on what exactly he can do at this point.
Across the Bay, the 49ers are coming off the bye week, and couldn't be feeling any better about themselves. Their defense has arisen as one of the leagues best and youngest bunches, and finally, their offense is turning into a multi-dimensional attack, rather than a Frank Gore fest with a few quick passes here and there. The reason being for that has been the outstanding play of Alex Smith, and I never would have thought I'd be saying those words. Now, it's not like Smith has completely arrived as a legit NFL QB, but he does have a top-5 passer rating and a 7/1 TD/INT ratio through 6 games. His lack of mistakes, and knack for pulling out the big play this year has been huge for the 49ers. The only game they lost this year is when their defense tanked in the second half against Dallas back in week 2, but otherwise, they've looked like the Steelers of the NFC. Winning with strong defense, a good O-line, and mistake-free football. They also have a few teams coming up on the schedule that they should be able to handle if they play the way they've been playing with Cleveland and Washington the next two up on the schedule. The 49ers could easily be looking at 7-1 heading into their game with the Giants in week 10. Isn't it amazing how much a good coach who knows the game like a Jim Harbough does, comes in and takes over! I know players get the credit with wins and coaches get the brunt off the losses, but Jim Harbough is the reason this team is where it's at, no doubt about it, coach of year through the first half (on what he's done with Smith alone, forget the 5-1 record)!