The San Francisco 49ers (0-5) are off to their worst start in 31 years and will desperately try to earn their first victory of the season when they host the Oakland Raiders (2-3). The 49ers (-7 @ Diamond Sportsbook) have met their Bay Area rivals just once during the regular season since 2002 even though they have played each other in the preseason on an annual basis. The Raiders lost this year’s preseason meeting with San Francisco at home 28-24 and will be looking for their first road win of the season following a 35-27 victory against San Diego last week.
Oakland had lost 13 straight meetings with the Chargers before putting together one of their best all-around efforts in years and hope to build off that big win here against the 49ers. The Raiders got outstanding special-teams play with two blocked punts in the first five minutes of the game against San Diego – resulting in an early 12-0 lead – and finished off the Chargers with a 64-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the final minute of the game to seal the victory.
However, the team’s starting quarterback remains in question after Bruce Gradkowski exited with a shoulder injury at halftime. Gradkowski will keep his job if healthy but was replaced by Jason Campbell, who completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers in the second half. Oakland also has a question mark at running back with starter Darren McFadden still dealing with a hamstring injury. McFadden was among the league leaders in rushing before suffering the injury, but backup Michael Bush did a nice job filling in for him last week. Bush carried the ball 26 times for 104 yards against the Chargers with a touchdown.
San Francisco has not made any key personnel changes on offense as of yet but might consider replacing quarterback Alex Smith if he continues to struggle. Smith has thrown an NFL-high nine interceptions and also lost a fumble early in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 home loss to Philadelphia last Sunday night. That turnover led to a shouting match with head coach Mike Singletary and ignited another late rally that again came up short in the end.
The 49ers have lost their last two games by a combined five points, and three of their last four have been decided by three points or less. Team owner Jed York came out earlier in the week and proclaimed they would still win the NFC West despite the terrible start. No team has ever made the playoffs following an 0-5 start, but the division is especially weak this year with a lot of young teams that were supposed to be looking up at San Francisco in the standings at this point.