Saturday night is the annual NFL preseason Battle of the Bay with the Oakland Raiders hosting the San Francisco 49ers. The two teams have been impressive in preseason play. The Raiders went into Dallas in week 1 and came away with a 17-9 victory, and then took care of the Bears in Chicago, 32-17. San Fran also sports a 2-0 record having beaten the Colts in Indy, 37-17, and the Vikings at home, 15-10. With bragging rights on the line, this promises to be an entertaining contest.
The home Raiders opened as a 2 ½ point favorite. But with roughly 65% of betting being placed on the 49ers, our NFL betting lines page indicates the line has come down to 1 point at most sites, with a couple books listing the game as a pick. For bettors who visit MadduxSports, the wiseguys let us know the Raiders were a good play last weekend, and Raider backers were rewarded with an easy cover. This week we don’t have the benefit of following reverse action; nevertheless, I recommend fading the public favorite 49ers in this contest, and letting the Raiders bring us another nice payday.
The post-Jamarcus Russell era has begun in Oakland and Raider fans should breathe a big sigh of relief. While Russell may have been able to heave the ball from one knee, he couldn’t find any rhythm on two feet. Now, former Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell takes the reins in Oakland with former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller backing him up. Campbell is still searching for more consistency, but his progression from week 1 to week 2 is an encouraging sign. Against Dallas, Campbell was 7-13 for 49 yards and wasn’t able to lead his team to any points. But against Chicago, Campbell was 10-20 for 170 yards with 1 interception and a rushing touchdown. Importantly, the Raiders found the end zone on their first possession and kicked a field goal on their second. A second quarter field goal meant 13 first half points for Campbell and the Raiders. In relief work, Boller has put up good numbers. In two games Boller is 19-30 for 203 yards with a touchdown toss, a touchdown run, and no interceptions. The rushing game has also similarly been effective, rushing for over 100 yards in each contest. Leading the way has been Michael Bennett, the former Minnesota Viking speedster who’s getting another crack at the NFL.
Defensively, Oakland has been even more impressive. In each game the Raider D has recorded six sacks. Against Dallas a late defensive score sealed the deal for the visiting Raiders. In Chicago, a muffed punt was recovered in the end zone giving the Raiders a lead they would not relinquish. Oakland’s defense has given up only 2 touchdowns – an 89 yard run by Matt Forte and a 22 yard pass by Jay Cutler that was set up by a Campbell interception. In other words, the Raiders broke down on one play and couldn’t protect a short field following a turnover. Not too bad.
The 49ers have won both preseason contests, but haven’t looked that sharp. Against the Colts, the Niners were down 17-3 before Indy backup quarterback Curtis Painter imploded. Four Painter turnovers led to 34 unanswered points by the 49ers. Even though San Fran was able to capitalize on Painter’s turnovers, the Niners still committed four of their own. Against the Vikings, Alex Smith marched his team down the field for a touchdown on their first drive, but never managed to find the end zone for the rest of the game. The 49ers rushed the ball 31 times for only 80 yards and committed 9 penalties for 92 yards.
San Francisco head coach Mike Singletary said Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, and Brian Westbrook would all be making their preseason debuts Saturday night. According to Singletary, Gore would play “maybe a series, maybe a little more. Depends on how the game is going.” He also said Crabtree might play a quarter while the rest of the starters would likely play a half.
Most pundits are predicting the Niners to win the NFC West and the Oakland Raiders to struggle again, though not as much as in recent seasons. But on Saturday night, look for the Raiders have little trouble with San Fran. The Raider defense is just playing too well right now. After numerous losing seasons, don’t underestimate a winning mentality that seems to be growing in Oakland. Also worth noting – the Raiders have won the last 3 home matchups in this series. Take a long look at this game, and consider fading the public favorite. Like always, the best way to make money is to sign up for our premium expert NFL picks.