Three things to know before the 49ers face the Raiders on Thursday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime).
1. The thing Derek Carr does best is throw seam balls in the red zone, particularly against zone coverage, which defenses play more often down there. Carr throws these confidently and with the right blend of touch and velocity. The 49ers gave up two big red zone touchdown passes in their disappointing loss at Arizona last week, including Christian Kirk’s game-winner, which attacked third-string safety Tyvis Powell, who was in for an injured Jaquiski Tartt and Antone Exum. Powell will play again Thursday night, and the Raiders will go after him by spreading out and putting Carr’s favorite receiver (Jordy Nelson? Jared Cook?) in the slot.
2. The Raiders and 49ers are 1-6 and 1-7, respectively, because they lack quality four-man pass rushes. Consequently, both defenses are searching for their identity. The Raiders are cycling through different players (they appear to have finally settled on playing some of their younger guys) and the Niners are cycling through different schematics (we’ve seen more man-to-man calls from coordinator Robert Saleh this year). No defense wants to be still searching for answers like this in November.
3. Oakland’s depth at linebacker will be tested. The foundation of Kyle Shanahan’s offense is two-back personnel, which all but forces a defense to keep its linebackers on the field. The Raiders have a good, though inconsistent, lead ‘backer in Tahir Whitehead. After that, it’s a series of midlevel rotational specialists.
Bold Prediction: With 5:00 traffic to battle, less than 10,000 fans will be present at opening kickoff for this showdown of one-win teams. (Or maybe not so bold.)
Score prediction: 49ers 32, Raiders 26
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