Eight games have come and gone and the 49ers have shown little to look forward to for the next eight. 2019 can’t come any sooner for head coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers.
San Francisco needs to make the most of what’s left of the 2018 season and salvage something positive. The coaching staff and front office will continue to evaluate the current personnel to see what sort of improvements can be made going into the offseason.
The second half of the schedule begins with a primetime matchup against Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders. Both teams currently own only one notch in the win column and the desperation for a second is palpable on either sideline.
The preseason promise has faded but the vigor of this rivalry game should certainly bring a little extra to the playing field. This is for bragging rights and the 49ers need to halt a six-game losing streak.
This game is crucial for the 49ers morale, after getting humiliated by the Rams in their last home game two weeks ago. Los Angeles is currently the bar, not only in the division but the rest for the rest of the league as well.
Losing that game, in that fashion really showed how far San Francisco needs to go in order to be a competitor again in the NFC West. A win against the Raiders may not mean much this year in terms of the overall season, but this game can really help the team realize that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. If they want to win this game, here are three keys to the 49ers handling the Raiders.
Pound The Rock
The Raiders have allowed a league-worst 144.7 rushing yards per game. On the flip side, the 49ers are currently sixth in the NFL rushing for an average of 133.6 rushing yards per game.
The 49ers have abandoned the run too quickly over the course of the game in the past few weeks. While they still rush more times than they pass, they could still do a better job of leaning on the running game to win ball games. Especially with a backup quarterback under center, the 49ers should establish the run and take some pressure off of CJ Beathard.
Mullin’ Over Mullens
Beathard suffered a wrist injury in the team’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and is questionable for Thursday. If Beathard can’t go, third-string quarterback, Nick Mullens would be pressed into action. This would be Mullens’ first career start and it could not be on a bigger stage than primetime against Oakland.
This game may not be as high-profile as it was once dubbed before the season started, but it’s still a high-pressure, nationally televised game. There is not a lot of information on Mullens, but he did see significant playing time during the preseason.
Looking at his stats during the preseason and also college, he has a high completion percentage. In the exhibitions this season, he had a completion percentage of 72.1 percent. He also boasted a 63.4 completion percentage in his two years as the starter at Southern Mississippi.
Mullens likely won’t be airing it out and the offensive gameplan will probably include a lot of high-percentage throws. This can keep the 49ers in the game if Mullens can limit turnovers and control the clock for the San Francisco offense.
Oakland has allowed nine sacks in their last three games. This number is a little skewed, seeing as the Seahawks racked up six against them in London and the Colts did not register any last week.
Regardless, this offensive line is not protecting Derek Carr well and the 49ers need to take advantage. Another reason the 49ers need to make Carr uncomfortable is to compensate for the under-performing secondary. Getting to Carr consistently should be a major point of emphasis for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and the San Francisco defense.
The Thursday night game against the Raiders is not the must-see-television expected when the schedule was announced in April. Still, a Bay Area grudge match will need to be settled and the 49ers and Raiders are looking to earn bragging rights for the next few years.
This San Francisco squad is reeling from multiple injuries and lack of execution to close out winnable games. The 49ers are looking to break their string of losses and this is a great opportunity to do that.
Mullens could be making his first NFL start and this change at quarterback can possibly jump start this team. The 49ers should be able to come into their home stadium the day after Halloween and finally give the Faithful a real treat after suffering some serious tricks all season long.
Game Facts To Keep In Mind
- The 49ers and Raiders are both in the bottom tier in the NFL when it comes to average points per game. The 49ers are 23rd with 21.6 points per game and the Raiders are 27th at 19.7 points per game.
- The Raiders have won four of their last five Thursday night games, while the 49ers are currently on a four-game losing streak on Thursday night.
- George Kittle is currently third in the following categories among tight-ends: receptions, receiving yards, average yards per game, first-down conversions, and plays of 20+ yards.
Final Score Prediction: 49ers 20, Raiders 14