Walcoff: Breaking down the Bay Area rivals

In the parallel worlds of Mike Singletary and Tom Cable, things are definitely on the upswing. Both shook off interim head coaching labels after ’08, turned their teams’ fortunes around after changing quarterbacks in ’09 and now rightfully believe they are guiding playoff-worthy teams in 2010. So how do the 49ers and Raiders stack up as they get ready for Saturday night’s Battle of the Bay in Oakland?


Neither Jason Campbell nor Alex Smith has played up to expectations, but the more athletic Campbell has had more success staying healthy and limiting costly turnovers. Smith finally gets to play in the same system for a second straight season. Although Smith appears more comfortable, Campbell remains the more polished passer.

Advantage: Raiders

Offensive Line

Despite the loss of center Eric Heitmann, the 49ers boast a formidable unit led by rising star Joe Staley and talented rookies Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis.

Oakland’s line is still in flux. Veterans Robert Gallery and Langston Walker are solid, but Mario Henderson remains an adventure at left tackle. Rookies Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell could be called upon later in the season.

Advantage: 49ers


Vernon Davis is one of the NFL’s most explosive tight ends. Michael Crabtree is a tremendous possession receiver. But where’s the home run threat?

There’s more explosiveness in the Raiders’ young pass-catching group, but will they mature quickly enough? Louis Murphy has arrived. Darrius Heyward-Bey looks much more poised after a forgettable rookie season. Oft-injured playmaker Chaz Schilens is hurt again. One of these receivers must step up to free up Zach Miller.

Advantage: 49ers

Running Backs
Frank Gore gets much-needed help with the signing of fellow Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook. Meanwhile, Michael Bush and Darren McFadden were expected to form a great Thunder and Lightning tandem in Oakland. However, McFadden has yet to show he can stay healthy or break a tackle.

Advantage: 49ers

Defensive Line
Anchored by former Pro Bowl tackles Richard Seymour and John Henderson, Oakland is finally positioned to stop the run. New starting ends Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy provide an improved pass rush. The 49ers are strong on the edge with Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, but suffer inside minus holdout nose tackle Aubrayo

Advantage: Raiders


How appropriate that this is Singletary’s most talented unit. Led by Patrick Willis, San Francisco has a fast and powerful posse in Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson, Ahmad Brooks, Takeo Spikes and newcomer Travis LaBoy.

The Raiders’ revamped linebacking corps also looks strong with impressive rookie Rolando McClain flanked by veterans Kamerion Wimbley and Trevor Scott, but it’s a new unit still learning to play together.

Advantage: 49ers


All Pro Nnamdi Asomugha loves playing man-to-man; it’s too bad the other Raiders cornerbacks can’t come close to matching his skills. The 49ers have tightened up their coverage with the return of Nate Clements and development of Shawntae Spencer.

Advantage: Even

Bottom Line

Although San Francisco starts the season with more promise, local bragging rights won’t come until the 49ers and Raiders go at it for real Oct. 17 at Candlestick Park. Imagine that. A Battle of the Bay showdown that should actually mean something in the standings.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

Other Sportsrich walcoffsports

Just Posted

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, pictured in July at Oracle Park, says team members simultaneously can be “measured and calm” and “looking to push the accelerator.” (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants’ success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

Artist Agnieszka Pilat, pictured with Spot the Robot Dog from Boston Robotics, has a gallery show opening at Modernism. (Courtesy Agnieszka Pilat)
Screenshots of VCs, Kanye and tech parties by the Bay

In this week’s roundup, Ben Horowitz’s surprising hip-hop knowledge and the chic tech crowd at Shack15

Speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia Gombojav Zandanshatar said his country and San Francisco face similar challenges on issues including COVID recovery and climate change. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Mongolian leaders meet with tech, film leaders on city tour

‘I really want San Franciscans to meet the new Mongolian generation’

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10), seen during a team practice, connected on 17 of 25 passes in a Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions. (Courtesy Terrell Lloyd, San Francisco 49ers)
Jimmy vs. Trey: The NFL’s most ridiculous QB controversy

Let’s not forget who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl

Most Read