Forget about the records, tear up the playbook and toss out any cliché you want. This Sunday is all about pride and bragging rights as the Raiders and 49ers tangle in a Bay Area brawl filled with more plotlines than a daytime soap.
Before the season started, if you said one team would enter this game 0-5 and the other would be 2-3 coming off a dramatic win over a longtime rival. Most would assume it was the Raiders who were just over a quarter of the way to joining the Detroit Lions in football failure and the 9ers were the squad looking to get to .500.
What a difference a difference can make.
While the 49ers – the over-hyped darlings of the NFC Worst – chose to stand pat with Alex Smith, the Raiders went out and made moves by dumping the dead weight of JaMarcus Russell and trading for Jason Campbell. Acquiring Campbell was supposed to be the change the Raiders needed. Turns out they should have just stayed the course with Bruce Gradkowski. However with Campbell helping to end the era of Charger dominance and Bruce Almighty nursing a bum shoulder, JC could be the difference in this contest if he gets the call as the starter.
Speaking of changes – this could be the last week for Mike Singletary if he can’t deliver a loss to his foes in the East Bay. Tom Cable got a stay of execution by beating the Bolts and was a Sebastian Janikowski shank away from having the Silver and Black on winning terms just over a month into the season.
Still not enough drama for you?
How about the duel between Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree?
When the Raiders sent Mel Kiper into a draft-day coma by taking Hey-Bey over the Dallas Diva it set off a chorus of controversy. When the 9ers chose to pounce on Crabtree just three picks later it setup a Bay Area standoff with both men out to prove a point.
Round One went to Heyward-Bey as the Raiders showed him the money and got their top pick into camp just one day late. Crabtree, on the other hand, took the JaMarcus approach and even flirted with the notion of re-entering the draft. Once the 9ers got Crabtree into the fold he took Round Two walking away. Despite spotting DHB half a season, Crabtree went out and bested his rival with an astounding 48 catches to Heyward-Bey’s 9. So far it’s Crabtree doubling up on catches with 22 to 11 for the much improved DHB.
While the action will be on the field, the excitement will be in the stands as two fan bases separated by a BART ride under the Bay will share stadium space. Bringing the Black Hole across the Bay will be the reignited pride of Raider Nation. After last week’s dramatic win, the sun is shining on the East Bay while The City has been under a season-long fog thus far.
Despite those gray clouds that hover over 49er football, the Raiders are still an underdog getting a ridiculous 7-points from odds makers. All this means is Cable and the Raiders can’t afford to overlook the 49ers. Singletary’s squad is a sleeping giant and seeing Silver and Black in its way could awaken the slumbering beast.
If Cable can corral another inspired team effort from his men he’ll do something he and the Raiders haven’t done in almost two years – win consecutive games. Back in ’08, Cable led the Raiders to consecutive victories to end the season and secure his status as the head coach. In 2010, back-to-back wins will mean more momentum in the middle of the season.
Only one result will satisfy Raider Nation in this backyard brawl.
Just Win Baby!
Let’s get it on!