Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Palmer Tanks, Has Alex Smith Arrived?

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)!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Raiders Pay Steeply for Carson Palmer

All you have to do is scroll down to our previous post from yesterday to see how much I was behind the Raiders going all out for Carson Palmer. They just lost their starting QB for most likely the season and have a surging team that can make some noise in the NFL this year with the right man behind center.

Carson Palmer certainly appears to be that right man, but I didn't think the Raiders would have to surrender 2 first round picks for his services, and I don't think I'm alone in being a little blown away at just how much the Raiders gave Cincinatti for a guy who wasn't ever going to play for them again and was just sitting at home on the couch. If you read our post from yesterday, you'll see that I was anticipating more of a "2nd round pick" from 2013's draft since the Raiders don't have one in 2012, and maybe a decent young player who the Bengals could use know. I though Michael Bush would have been a brilliant fit in Cinci and is probably more talented than Cedric Benson and could have been the future at running back there with their young core of Andy Dalton, Jermaine Grisham and A.J. Green. But that wasn't the case, the Bengals knew the Raiders have high hopes for this season and they took them to the bank in order to give up their rights for Carson Palmer. So much is being said on the internet and on sports talk shows that I'm sick of beating the actual specifics of the trade to death while ignoring the implifications that Palmer will have once he joins his new team. Fact is, the Raiders will likely be drafting in the 20's in April's draft, so it's not like they'll be losing out on Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley or Landry Jones.

Gone are the Raiders top pick for 2012, and either 2nd or 1st rounder in 2013, but in comes a guy who's 31 years old (not at all old in Quarterback years) and easily the Raiders best gun-slinger since Rich Gannon was at the helm. There is no doubt in my mind that Palmer will come in and immediately pay dividends. Jason Campbell was a nice player, but Carson Palmer is a top-5 NFL QB when on and will give this team an element they haven't had in years. The Raiders have emerging weapons at wideout like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore and Palmer should make DHB a 1,000 yard receiver while Moore should continue to be a red-zone magnet. Yep, I said it, DHB set for 1,000 receiving yards this season with Palmer at the helm and finally gets the monkey off his back and removes the tag "first round bust" off his back. Not to mention, this also takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of Darren McFadden who was set to become the center of attention for opposing defenses. All in all, yes, I do think the Raiders gave up far too much in order to get Palmer to Oakland, but they knew what they wanted, and they made it happen, so for that, I give them kudos for having the stones to complete the deal. They likely lose their next 2 first rounders, but if it means they're in the playoffs the next 2 seasons, I think any Raider fan will take it. Do I think the Raiders gave up too much? Certainly. But they needed Carson Palmer and have a window here in the next few years to do something special. They likely wouldn't have found a QB as good as him in 2012's draft (seeing that they'll pick in the 20's and premium rated QB's Matt Barkley, Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden will likely be off the board), and this guy could easily be the man for 4-5 more seasons as long as they can keep him healthy. Sure, the Bengals will be better for it in a few years, but the Raiders are infinitely better for it, both this year and next and possibly beyond. Looking at it that way, Jackson didn't make out too badly.

Note: Carson Palmer was at practice Wednesday and appeared to go through drills as though he plans to play Sunday, and I think that will indeed be the case. Better be seeing that the Raiders will be parting with each of their next two drafts top picks for him. Hue Jackson has been hush-hush so far on the topic and won't publicly say until Friday, but I think Palmer lines up on Sunday as the starter, and I although it may take him though next weeks bye to really get acclimated, I see a nice season ahead of him with weapons like DHB, Ford, Moore, McFadden and Boss.

Fearless Prediction for Palmer's 2011:
10 games, 197-336 (59%), 2,250 yards, 16 TD/10 Int, 85.7 QB Rating

Monday, October 17, 2011

Raiders Need Carson Palmer!

The Raiders have been one of the early season surprises in the NFL so far, as they moved to 4-2 with Sunday's win over Cleveland. However, the victory came at a steep price, as the Raiders lost their starting QB Jason Campbell to a busted shoulder that had to be surgically repaired immediately, and will likely shelve him the rest of the year.

The Raiders need to move on with a "Plan B", and as we saw in Kyle Boller's relief performance, he doesn't appear to be answer going forward. He can fill in for a few quarters like he did Sunday, but imagine him going the rest of the way? Even punter Shane Lechler sported a higher QB rating than Boller on Sunday, and it's not like he was facing a defensive juggernaut. Again, not to knock Boller, as he did what he had to, holding on to the second half lead and take the Raiders to victory, but if he takes over as the starter going forward, it will be back to 2008 all over again. For a 4-2 team determined to play strongly for their late owner, Al Davis, I don't think the Raiders brass will be content with their current QB situation, but the only decent free agent out there, David Garrard, just had surgery on his knee and likely won't play in 2011. So where does that leave the Raiders? The other FA's are guys like Josh McCown, Daunte Cullpepper and Marc Bulger, who are basically equal to Boller. They'll either scurrying the trade market before Tuesday's deadline, or ride it out with Boller, hoping he can be serviceable while Michael Bush and Run DMC become the whole focus of the offense. There's a chance they could look at Jake Delhomme, who's had the most success most recently as far as the free agent QB's and could be OK with a strong O-line and weapons around him.

I know just about every Raider fan is probably thinking the same thing, "Well what about Terrelle Pryor?" As talented and athletic as Pryor is, he's nowhere near ready to take over an NFL team and he may not even translate into a QB at the NFL level. Still though, after witnessing the success of Cam Newton, the Raiders may try out Pryor if Boller isn't the answer and they don't find anything else. They could be watching the Tim Tebow experiment in Denver to see how a pure run first QB translates to the NFL. At least Newton had the passing attributes to translate at this level. I'm not sure Tebow or Pryor do.

As far as the trade market, there are a few options out there who the Raiders could definitely use and who could come in and really help this offense. Kyle Orton is the biggest name out there as far as QB's on the trade market who've actually thrown a pass this season, and as good as I see him fitting in with Oakland, I highly doubt the Broncos would send him inside their division without taking a ransom from Oakland in return, even though reports suggest they'd consider. I think the real target for the Raiders though has to be Bengals reject Carson Palmer. The top pick of 2003's draft is just sitting on his couch right now waiting for the Bengals to trade him, and I can't think of a better target for the Raiders. The former USC-alum is coming off a 26-TD season in 2010 but never showed up for camp with Cinci after disagreements with management. It would be very tough for the Raiders to work something out with the Bengals in this short of a window though. If I'm Hue Jackson though, I'm pushing hard for either Palmer or Orton, and if it cost a 2nd round pick, than that's what it costs. Problem is though, is that the Raiders don't have a 2nd rounder until 2013's draft. What I'd try to do if I were Oakland would be to try and get Michael Bush involved instead of a high draft pick. Cinci has Cedric Benson but he's hardly the future for them there, while Bush is clearly cut out for a primary role. It would be a slight blow to the Raiders RB depth chart with the fragile McFadden atop the list, but backup running backs seem to be a dime a dozen in the NFL. Julius Jones, who collected 120 yards and 2 TD's in his last game during the Saints playoff loss in January, is un-employed for some reason, and he could easily caddy DMC.

The Raiders have a chance to make a splash this year and an addition like Palmer (assuming he's in football shape) would make the Raiders offense a unique powerhouse. Just think about him chucking deep balls to DHB, Denarious Moore and Jacoby Ford, not too mention the pressure and focus it would take off of DMC.

World Series Set: It seems like Baseball's postseason is just flying by this year as the Cardinals just defeated the Brewers Sunday night win the NL Pennant and stamp their ticket to the World Series to oppose the Texas Rangers. With the 49ers on bye, and without a game for the next 2 weeks, we'll be talking a lot of World Series baseball, along with more Raiders and Stanford. For more World Series coverage and Giants talk, check out our partner site, The Giants Baseball Blog- A San Francisco Giants Blog and Fan Website!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

49ers Move to 5-1 With Win in Detroit

Don't look know NFL, but the 49ers have reverted back to their pre-2000 days! No, we probably can't go that far yet, but after another upset, and another road victory, they've certainly gotten the NFL's attention.

The 49ers ran for over 200 yards Sunday vs. Detroit, with Frank Gore collecting 141 of them on 15 carries. Alex Smith wasn't great, as he turned the ball over 2 times and threw for just 125 yards. On top of all of that, they were facing the undefeated powerhouse Detroit Lions in their own backyard, and they still managed to pull this one out, 25-19. Matt Stafford got his, throwing for 280 yards and 2 scores, but the 49ers were able to get in his face enough to disrupt him at key points in the game, one big one for a safety and another clincher late in the game when Detroit was making their final push. The defensive front was the subject of the day in Detroit for San Fran, as they were in Stafford's face constantly, sacking him 5 times for a net of 49 yards. Rookie Aldon Smith continues to show everyone why the 49ers chose him over a higher ranked QB, or CB, as he collected 2 big sacks and know has 6 on season which puts him right up with the leagues premiere pass rushers. The usual suspects, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald, all got credit for sacks as well, as the 49ers front 7 played near flawless football. Their secondary played pretty well overall, considering they were going against the prolific Lion attack. They kept Calvin Johnson out of the endzone, and although they didn't pick Stafford off, they knocked down 9 of his passes.

This win obviously puts the 49ers on the map as not only the team to beat in the NFC West, but arguably one of the best squads in the whole NFC. Right now, the only teams I see playing clearly better than SF in the league are Green Bay and New Orleans, and the only team to beat them this year, Dallas. Those teams scare me because of their premiere passing attacks, which may tempt the 49ers even more to test the waters as far as potential trade targets at cornerback with just 48 hours before Tuesday's trade deadline. Chris Culliver stepped up very nicely as he was matched up with Calvin Johnson quite a bit. He and Smith are making huge impacts as rookies early in 2011 already. Carlos Rogers also played another nice game as he's turned out to be one of the best FA signing for the 49ers so far if you ask me. Fellow corner, rookie Chris Culliver had a standout game as well, matching up with Calvin Johnson on a lot of plays and holding his own quite well. Despite Culliver's emergence, I still would really like to see the 49ers pursue another cover-man before Tuesday's trade deadline, though I don't see it happening. The 49ers have a decent team that is very well coached, but still don't have the talent offensively, especially with the injuries at wideout, to keep score with teams like New Orleans and Dallas.

The 49ers are heading into bye week, which I'm sure they wish would have came a few weeks later with the way they've been playing, and although we'll still discuss them plenty over the next two weeks, we'll be focusing more on the MLB playoffs and the Raiders, who are currently up on Cleveland at half.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trade Deadline Targets for 49ers and Raiders

Well, here we are, entering week 6 and wouldn't you know it, both the 49ers and Raiders are not only in the thick of playoff contention, they're a couple of the better teams in the league through 5 weeks. Still, the NFL trade deadline comes on October 18th, and there are a few players on the block who could interest both San Fran and the Raiders.

Here are a few potential targets for each team, as well as what it may cost to obtain the (top priority has * with name):


QB Kyle Orton/Brady Quinn, Den.- This comes as a two headed monster, because either of these guys should be available now that Denver is putting all their cards in the Tim Tebow basket. Orton is obviously the better, more polished guy, but also would probably cost a lot more in return. Plus, he'd be a guy you'd look towards more if Smith had struggled through 5 weeks, and he's actually been a pleasant surprise. Still, they need a better backup, and Quinn could be a nice fit. As could Tampa's Josh Johnson.

CB Champ Bailey, Den- Get used to seeing Broncos, cause they're likely the team most likely to be selling. The 49ers obviously could use another hand at corner, and if they could get Bailey motivated, they could cash in on him in final 12 weeks. Problem is, his contract is undesirable and he has been declining.

*WR Brandon Lloyd, Den*: Now he's a guy who can really make an impact on this offense if the 49ers could figure out a way to get #84 back in town. Only difference between now and 6 years ago is that he's learned the game and is a dynamic play maker who can go down field while opening up the middle for Crabtree. He's a Pro-Bowl talent, and the 49ers haven't produced a pro bowl wideout since T.O. Percy Harvin would be my first choice as far as possible names who could be dealt before October 18th, but highly doubt Minny gives him up without getting back a 1st rounder or someone like Aldon Smith or Navarro Bowman. A top rate receiver who can help out Crabtree and Davis could do wonders for this offense though and Lloyd is a perfect fit! Honestly, an add like Lloyd and maybe one of these DB's listed to San Fran and you not only have the NFC West favorites, but a legit contender in an unpredictable NFC. (Remember some of the catches he'd make while with San Fran?) He's almost worth parting with a 2nd round pick, especially on the off hand you keep him around after the year. I just think he, Crabtree, Davis (and when healthy) Edwards would be a sight for sore eyes!

CB Marcus Trufant, Seattle- Doubt the Seahawks send him inside the division, but he could be a huge upgrade to this secondary if he stays healthy. On pace for pro-bowl year, and would be dynamite next to Rogers. I've always liked Trufant and would definitely consider offering up bright young safety Reggie Williams, along with a mid-round pick.

RB Reggie Bush, Mia-
It's sad that NFL coaches seemingly have wasted Reggie's talent, believe it or not. Maybe he could come in and help Frank Gore on 3rd downs and provide another solid outlet for Alex Smith. I really think Harbough would know how to utilize the unique pass-catching back, and he could allow the 49ers to open up the playbook and get creative.


*CB Antoine Winfield, Minnesota*- Either him, Bailey, or Trufant would be welcome additions to a below average secondary giving up 300 yards through the air per week. It's the one area where the Raiders are constantly getting burned, yet they do have a some solid play makers back there. Winfield is having a pro-bowl type year and the Vikings are going nowhere. Maybe the Raiders can unload a young receiver like the super talented, yet never healthy, Luis Murphy. I could really see a match here if these two teams were serious, and they should. Sticking Murphy next to Percy Harvin amplifies the Viking passing attack and Winfield only has 12 weeks left under contract.

TE Anthony Fasano, Miami- Kevin Boss has not translated well in replacing Zach Miller's aerial production, and Fasano could be one of the best receiving tight ends on the market. He'd be a huge upgrade over Boss as the starter and would allow Kevin to move into a more comfortable, blocking-oriented TE2 role. I almost selected Fasano as a potential top-target over Winfield, but the Raiders have enough options in the passing game, and although he's not great, Boss is a serviceable player.

OLB Joey Porter, Arizona- The Raiders are still reeling a bit at linebacker, as evident by their acquisition of Aaron Curry (more below). Porter hasn't had a great year in Arizona, but something tells me a move back to his home town and playing for the Raiders would ignite him. He's a perfect fit for the Raiders hard-nosed defense, and can really, really help improve that team against the run.

They Raiders could also use another wide receiving option for Jason Campbell, although Denarious Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey are starting to come into their own, and Murphy and Chaz Schillens are more than capable. Again, a rock-solid DB could help solidify the secondary, but a plus-pass catching TE is something Campbell really needs to be at the top of his game. Maybe Boss is the guy, but it hasn't showed yet.... As for the guy they already picked up, Aaron Curry, I absolutely love it, as it's another no risk, potentialy huge reward type pickup grabbing a 23 year-old former former #4 pick. I think he had such high expectations, that people got so down on him that he doubted himself, so a change of scenery should be ideal. I think this is the perfect type of project player for the Raiders to take on and he couldn't be coming in at a better time with all the injuries on the defensive side. Another guy the Silver and Black should look into too for help with pass rush is the ancient Jayson Taylor (assuming he can pass a physical that is). The Raiders are getting burnt through the air so two things need to improve, and that's coverage by the DB's and some more pass rush up front!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Morgan Hits IR, Leaves 49ers Reeling at WR

One of the last guys this offense could afford to lose looks like he'll be down for the rest of the year after wideout Josh Morgan injured his shoulder in Sunday's game, prompting surgery and an immediate trip to the IR. This has big time impact on a Niner offense that was just starting to get it's identity.

What makes this loss even harder to swallow, is that free agent acquisition Braylon Edwards has been hobbled by injury and isn't coming around too quickly on that front. Not to mention, the one guy who is healthy enough to suit up is reeling as well. Now Michael Crabtree is having issues with both his feet and will likely take it easy at practice this week, though he should play. This team really needs to Edwards to heal quickly, because he can really soften the blow of losing Morgan for the year. He was developing decent chemistry with Alex Smith and Smith is having far and away his best season as a pro, so Edwards could be thriving if he can get heatlhy soon. Otherwise, they really will have no other choice but to bring in at least one free agent wideout. Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams are serviceable, but the 49ers are 4-1 and all the sudden have expectations, so they would at least like another proven guy lining up with Crabtree until Edwards is 100%. The name of the week has been T.J. Houshmanzadeh, as the former Steeler/Raven and Seahawk showed up at Niner camp this week for a tryout. I have just a little skepticism thinking about Edwards and Housh on the same sideline, though Edwards has appeared to be a solid leader so far (probably because they're winning).

All in all though, Housh does have talent and could immediately help this team, and he's probably the best guy out there who they could realistically get (sorry T.O. or Moss wishers). He could help out while Edwards recovers then move into the slot when Edwards returns to keep the 49ers offense full of weapons. Again, T.J. is not done, just not quite sure if the 49ers take a chance on him. Another two guys I'd give a look see at, again health permitting, are Antonio Bryant (has a rapore with Alex already). I know he's had some personal issues in the past, but I can't see why Bryant isn't employed with the talent he has unless he's hurt.

Monday, October 10, 2011

49ers Surprising the NFL With 4-1 Start

After the 49ers upset the Eagles last Sunday, I got that feeling you get when you know your watching something decent come together. It reminds me of the way I felt about the SF Giants at the end of 2009 when they had these young players come up and dominate and they looked well on their way to greatness in 2010.

After pulling out the big victory over Vick, LeSean McCoy and the "Dream Team", which is looking much more like the "In Your Dream Team" if your an Eagle fan or player, and doing so in convincing fashion, it showed me the 49ers not only can manage their way to a win, but they can go out late and take a close game. That's something I hadn't seen since Jeff Garcia was throwing to T.O. Not only did they build off that win over Philly, theyimproved on it, and laid down the biggest 49ers beating that I can remember by manhandling the then 3-1 Tampa Bay Bucs, and cruising to a 48-3 victory. It was like a top ranked national powerhouse college team taking on a Sacramento State or something like that, it must have been painful to watch if you were a Buc fan, but more importantly, a long overdue laugher for the 49ers side. If you would have thrown a Drew Brees shirt onto Alex Smith yesterday, I wouldn't have been able to tell them apart, that's how on the kid was this Sunday. He only threw for 170 yards on 11-19 passing, but tossed 3 TD's, two of which landed in the hands of his go-to guy, Vernon Davis. Smith didn't need to throw the ball 30+ times because the 49ers had control of it from the get go while Frank Gore and Kendal Hunter had no trouble at all finding running lanes. Gore (20-125/1 TD) and Hunter (9-65) combined for 190 rush yards and the 49ers could have probably ran on just about ever play after the half and would have came out just fine.

The offense was clicking on all cylinders, but once again, this underrated offense did it's thing and shined in a big way. Again, these Bucs were 3-1 coming in and had taken down some decent football teams, but they were clueless vs. Niners at Candlestick. Whatever football insider that said Carlos Rogers cannon catch footballs better be checking himself right now, cause Rogers has turned into a game-changer in the 49er secondary and is doing exactly what they paid Nate Clements so much money to fail at. Rogers is off to an all-pro start with 13 tackles and 3 picks through 5 games, including a TD and 7 PD's. He's by far been the biggest payoff off all defensive free agents the 49ers obtained this summer, and I pushed for this team to add him once Asomugha was off the market. Also continuing to improve is rookie pass-rush specialist Aldon Smith, who added another pair of sacks to raise his total to 4 in 5 weeks. He's on pace for 12.5 sacks and it's been a while since a 49er defender hit that high of a mark. Navaro Bowman and Pat Willis also locked down the middle of the field, like they've been so darn good at through 5 games. Bowman must have taken to Willis because this guy has turned into Pat Willis Jr. and and is one of the better tacklers in the league already.

Fans were questioning some of the moves this team made early on after the lockout, like letting Takeo Spikes walk, and getting started a lot slower than the rest of the NFL was in terms of player movement, but it's certainly starting to look like Trent Baalke and Jim Harbough had an idea of what they were doing after all. There's still a long, long way to go, but in this division, after taking down two solid teams like Philly and Tampa in consecutive weeks, 49er faithful can't help but have some optimism towards this 2011 bunch.

Oh by the way, Alex Smith in 2011: 104 QBrat., 66% Comp, 965 yards, 7/1 TD-INT ratio through 5 weeks. Again, who knows how long this continues, but right now, it has him ranked 3rd in the NFL behind Brady and Rogers.


NFL Legend, Al Davis Passes Away at 82

One of the NFL's most recognizable ambassador, and long-time Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders Owner, Al Davis, has passed away at age 82.

The 49ers have always been my number one team, but I've always had very much respect for Al Davis. I didn't always agree with the choices he made, but he certainly did a lot of things right during his long tenure with the Raiders franchise. The man has been the face of this franchise for darn near 40 years, and even though the man himself has passed, his name will forever live on with the Raiders. In fact I could very easily see the Raiders new stadium dedicated to the former Raider owner, let's just hope it's in northern California like Davis wanted. Al moved the team to LA for a brief stint their in the 80's and early 90's, but quickly realized that Oakland is the spot for the Silver and Black. The 3-time Super Bowl winning owner also had success briefly as a head coach and entered the NFL Hall of Fame in 1992. If your trying to find an example of an owner who goes all out for his team and will spend the extra buck in order to try and get them over the hump, Al Davis is the poster boy. He didn't always make the best decisions (JaMarcus Russel), but he made more than a few good ones (Tim Brown, Marcus Allen, Jim Plunkett, Bo Jackson etc..). He certainly had mixed reviews on how he handled the Oakland Raiders, but those inside the organization always praised him and he was a good tremendous individual for the NFL, where his name will be immortal.

For the Raiders, I don't expect a whole lot to change on field, right away that is. I do think this team is going to step it up as much as they can to try and win the AFC West in Al's honor, and it's a great thing after being able to witness the Raiders improve to 3-2 with a big win at Houston. They'll certainly be playing with him in their hearts this season. We probably will start to see some change in philosophy until the offseason though, even if the Davis' keep the franchise in family. It looks like Mark Davis, Al's son, will take reigns of the day-to-day operations and already there are headlines in newspapers saying the Raiders now may end up making their way back to LA. Al Davis was in talks with AEG about playing in a stadium they're opening up in LA, but backed out of negotiations because AEG wanted to own stock in the franchise. I don't know Mark Davis at all, couldn't even pick him out of a picture of 5 people, so I have no idea if he'd consider something like that. I'm still hoping they decide to keep the Raiders up north. There's no doubt LA needs a football team, but the Raiders are John Madden, Al Davis, Tim Brown, the Black Hole, they're Oakland. Not to mention, they won 2 of their 3 world championships in the Bay Area too. I see the financial gain for the franchise to move south though, as they constantly fail to fill seats in Oakland and would probably be overflowing in LA. I'd like to see them stay in Norther Cali for the long haul, but LA would be more of a lucrative home for this team and there are certainly positive reasons for the franchise to retreat back to their 2nd home. If they do end up in LA, I would definitely suggest they still play a few honorary games back at the former home. It may not even be a bad marketing scheme to play a single game in LA each while still in Oakland. You know they'd sell out the Coliseum, and that would allow the Raiders hometown fans to see the Raiders play an actual home game on the tube, albeit from the LA Coliseum and not Oakland's.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

49ers Deliver Upset of 2011

I have to admit, I didn't think the 49ers had a glimmer of hope in this game vs. the Eagles. Philly was coming off a rough 2-game losing streak, and Michael Vick appeared to be as determined as ever coming into this contest after getting knocked around a bit in week's 2 and 3.

Michael Vick showed up and delivered his most prolific passing day as a pro, but the 49ers came up with a key turnover, and Alex Smith actually took charge of a game rather than just trying to manage it and get by making the least mistakes possible. It was almost as if the 49ers were such underdogs, that he played with a sense of ease. Smith has always looked good when games have been out of reach, but I don't recall him ever taking charge of a game so close, against such a good team, like he did on Sunday. Smith was sharp, throwing for 291 yards, completing 21 of 33 completions and two TD's with no picks and took command of the game late. Vick countered with a whopping 416 yards through the air, two touchdowns and a pick and even added 85 yards rushing, but couldn't push the Eagles over the top. Frank Gore also stood out in this game, as he answered all the skeptics coming into the week saying he was finished or hurt, by going for a season high 127 yards and a score on just 15 carries. Michael Crabtree also contributed for the first time all season, hauling in 5 passes for 68 yards while Vernon Davis and Josh Morgan each had TD receptions. The offense was very well rounded, and effecient, while the defense did just enough to hold on for the 24-23 victory. The 49ers took the lead with only 3 minutes left in the game, but their defense held strong and kept Philly's high-powered attach off the board in those final minutes to seal the victory.

The win has put the 49ers into a position they haven't been in nearly 10 years. Through 4 weeks, this team looks like it's getting better and better, and in a weak NFC West, the 49ers may very well be the most well-rounded team. The Rams were the favorite coming into the year, but injuries have killed them early on, and Sam Bradford has looked very mediocre. The Cardinals have a potent offense, but Kevin Kolb hasn't been the 2nd coming of Kurt Warner like AZ hoped, and their defense is one of the worst in the league. Seattle, who won the division last year despite a 7-9 record, could be in worst shape of all. Their offesne showed some life last week vs. the Falcons, but like many NFL insiders have reported, Seattle is basically a glorified expansion team with all the turnover they had on their roster this summer. Tavaris Jackson hasn't really panned out, the O-line has been a mess, and Marshawn Lynch barely has 100 rushing yards on the season. Right now, things are looking very positive for San Francisco, and they're taking full advantage of their divisional foes' early season struggles. That's the one things I'm seeing that's been very different with this team under Harbough. They're still finding their offensive identity, but Harbough's team takes advantage of what teams give them. You take away jsut one Tony Romo-Miles Austin TD connection from week 2, and this team is 4-0. Opportunistic football is a perfect way to describe the 49ers play through the quarter point.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Big Weekend for Bay Area Football

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