It is time for that quadrennial event that pits brother against brother and friend against friend. OK, who am I kidding? Raider fans don't fraternize with those guys across the bay. However, the two teams face off for Sunday's Battle of the Bay.
The Raider fans are taking great delight in the Niners' 0-5 start and internal intrigue. However, is it all as it seems?
Thoughts from the Dark Side: How did the Niners go from a preseason favorite to win the division to 0-5?
Samuel Lam: The 49ers came into the season with expectations from how they were able to finish last year. They were a team that was very close in winning the division and showed signs of improvement this year. With a weak division, the 49ers were the clear choice to win the division. Their stumble out of the gate can be credited to inconsistent play from both sides of the ball and a lot of questions on how to execute. Obviously the head coach gets the blame for the struggles and quite frankly, he deserves the blame for not being able to put together a team that has the talent to be in a better position.
TFDS: How did the Niners become the Bay Area team in turmoil for a change? How's Singletary's job security?
SL: It’s a strange feeling for the fans as they expected a team that should be atop the division. If you look at the make up of the 49ers, they still had question marks in the secondary and the style of offensive attack. Like many teams that struggle in the NFL, if there isn’t any consistency, there isn’t going to be any production.
Singletary’s future with the team will probably come to an end if he doesn’t turn this team around into a huge playoff contender. His inexperience as a head coach prior has shown this year and unless he figures it out, it looks like there would be no good reason to keep him around.
TFDS: What kind of future does Alex Smith have in San Francisco?
SL: This season is the year that Smith either makes or breaks it for the team. He’s been given numerous chances in the past but a lot of them have been detoured by offensive coordinator changes and injuries. The 49ers have invested this entire season for him and this is his last chance to make a good impression. If he takes the 49ers to the playoffs, and does with strong quarterback play, then the 49ers would definitely consider bringing him back. But if he continues to play like he has for the remainder of the season, the team will let him go as a free agent and look for help elsewhere.
TFDS: What are the Niners biggest weapons on offense? defense?
SL: Running back Frank Gore is the team’s most dangerous weapon on offense. He is a workhorse running the ball and is a dangerous threat catching too. He is the engine that moves the offense and if he isn’t on his game, the 49ers offense will struggle. Even though tight end Vernon Davis has emerged as one of the better tight ends in the league, the passing attack has been so inconsistent that it’s hard to tell how many opportunities Davis can get the ball.
Defensively, the strongest weapon is linebacker Patrick Willis. His ability to cover the field and stop the ball carrier continues to be the key to the offense. He has learned to be the leader of the defense and has been one of the best at his position since being drafted in 2007. Offenses have been zeroing on him, making it difficult for him to make a big impact so far this year. If Willis can get off to a fast start, he will definitely help keep the team in many ballgames.
TFDS: What do the Niners have to do to pull out their first win against Oakland?
SL: There are a few things the 49ers need to do get their first win. Alex Smith has to put together a string of strong drives early on in the game to get the momentum going. All his weapons have to fast to help the 49ers seize an early lead.
On defense, the secondary has to avoid the big plays. If the 49ers can contain the Raider to short runs and check downs, then the 49ers can put themselves in good position to win the game.
And with the return of Ted Ginn as the full-time kick returner, field position will also be the big key for the 49ers to help get them the win.
Samuel Lam covers the 49ers at Examiner.com.