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Battle of the Bay indicative of 2011 Raiders

Last season, the Oakland Raiders were swept by the San Francisco 49ers, as the Niners beat them in preseason and then proceeded to get their first win of the regular season — after going 0-5 — by beating the Raiders in week six. It was a devastating blow to a Raiders’ fan base that had high hopes for the revamped team coming into the 2010 season. This preseason, however, the tale of the tape should show a different side of the Raiders team, as in the type of team that won’t lie down and take it behind the woodshed.

In 2011, the Raiders will play the 49ers only one time, this Saturday at 8PM Eastern time and 5PM Pacific. Based on the way the New Orleans Saints handled the 49ers in week one, week two of preseason action needs to be a stomping ground for the Raiders to prove they are better off without some key free agents they lost this offseason.

These two teams have been intertwined perhaps more than ever over the past few seasons. For one thing, they have had unofficial scrimmages against each other in two of the last three preseasons.  They have also been discussing the potential of building a new stadium for the two teams as a collective effort in the poor economy. Another way they have been connected is this past offseason when 49ers owner, Jed York, interviewed current Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson for the 49ers vacant head coaching position. Want one more? How about the 2009 NFL Draft selection of Darrius Heyward-Bey over the popular Michael Crabtree?

Upon first glance in 2011, it appears Coach Jackson made the right choice by choosing to stay with the Raiders following the same offer from Al Davis. This is a team he knows well and a team that would appear to be on the rise as the Niners continue to try and sort out the obstacles of building a competitive franchise. However, some would say it worked out well for the 49ers when they hired former Stanford Cardinal Head Coach Jim Harbaugh to take that vacant spot on their staff. Harbaugh was said to be coveted by Raiders’ owner Al Davis prior to the hiring of former Head Coach, Tom Cable, as well as the current Head Coach, Hue Jackson.

Now Raiders’ fans will tell you they are excited about the Jackson regime in Oakland. Jackson, after all, is a highly regarded skill position coach in the NFL and the Raiders have a multitude of talented skill players who are in dire need of grooming. If the 2010 performance of Darren McFadden is any indication of what Hue Jackson is capable of, the Raiders will be in for an exciting tenure moving forward.

Last week, the Saints pounded the 49ers. The Raiders are not the Saints by any means. The Saints have had stability during the same amount of time that the Raiders have gone through two head coaches and put their third in place. The Saints have won a Super Bowl over that period of time and have developed one of the most prolific passing offenses in the game today led by NFL MVP candidate and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. They have also developed a blitz heavy and ultra effective defensive unit under defensive coordinator Greg Williams.

Meanwhile the Raiders have had no semblance of a passing game prior to last season and have just hired a new defensive coordinator this season. Granted, he is a face of the past for the team, Chuck Bresnahan, but the team is completely different from his last tenure in the same position.

Nonetheless, the way that the Saints just absolutely crippled the 49ers last week by allowing only three points and accumulating seven sacks in the process is something that should be mimicked by the Raiders on Saturday night. While this is a preseason game that “doesn’t matter,” it will be indicative of just where this unit is as a contender this season.

What I mean is, if the Raiders come out and obtain a similar result to the outcome of the 49ers – Saints game, then people will start to understand that the Raiders are a legitimate team this season. Conversely, if the game is competitive and the Raiders’ first team offense and defense do not dominate the 49ers, they could send the message that they still need a lot of work to pave their way out of the middle of the road mode they were in last season.

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