49ers Week 14 primer: Playoffs start now

It hasn’t been pretty lately in 49er-land. 

As if it wasn’t bad enough to get embarrassed on national television Thanksgiving night, owner Jed York set off a firestorm afterwords by calling his team’s performance “unacceptable.”

York’s frustration is warranted, but it brought the Jim Harbaugh situation back to the forefront, and barring a Super Bowl it’s unlikely the coach will return in 2015.

The 49ers themselves are the only ones who can turn this around, and they must do so by winning their next four games to have any shot at the playoffs. The easiest of the four should come in Week 14 against a 1-11 Oakland Raiders squad who is coming off an ugly 52-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Recent History

Alex Smith‘s two touchdown passes helped the 49ers get their first win of the season against the Raiders in Week 6 of 2010. Frank Gore carried most of the load in terms of moving the chains, gaining 149 yards on 29 carries in the 17-9 victory.

San Francisco’s defense held the Raiders to 179 total yards, and Manny Lawson and Takeo Spikes each had an interception off Jason Campbell.

The 49ers would manage to get to 6-10 after their 0-5 start, while the Raiders would have their first non-losing season in seven years with an 8-8 finish.

Players to watch

Colin Kaepernick has taken a lot of criticism for his poor play, and rightfully so.

Instead of growing as a passer, Kaepernick still seems as if he’s relying of athleticism alone, and teams have adjusted accordingly. Kaepernick was awful in Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks, throwing for a season-low 121 yards and getting picked off twice.

While it’s not all entirely on him, it’s Kaepernick’s job as a “franchise” quarterback to make those around him better, and he simply has not done that. If he can’t break out against the hapless Raiders, the whispers about whether or not he’s the right man for the job will only get louder.

As bleak as things seem for Oakland at the moment, there is still a glimmer of hope for the future. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has shown signs of having the makings of a franchise quarterback, despite there being very little talent around him. Carr is completing 59 percent of his passes, and has 14 touchdown passes (one less than Kaepernick) to 11 interceptions.

Game changing factor

The Raiders are barely an NFL roster right now, and it shows in the numbers. They’ve scored the fewest points in the league with 176, have the fewest rushing yards (870), and have the least total yards (3359). They’ve been just as bad on the other side of the ball, and are tied for second-most points allowed (337). They’ve been outscored by 161 points this season.

If there was ever a team the 49ers should beat soundly, it’s this one.

Stats to know

Despite the mismatch on paper, keep in mind that San Francisco has won five of its seven games by less than a touchdown. Most of the reason for their inability to put teams away is because the offense simply can’t score.

The 49ers have been held under 20 points in five of their last seven games, and only have 24 total touchdowns on the season. Only three teams (Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets) have less.

Bottom line

If the 49ers can’t beat the worst team in the league, they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. It’s that simple. How this game plays out may a tell a lot about where San Francisco is mentally, especially after a tough 10 days or so. If the Niners come out guns blazing and blow out the Raiders, they could be ready to go on a run. If it’s another case of playing down to their opponent, this could be the last win the team gets this season.

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images



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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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