Thursday Night Football: Who Wins the Battle of the Bay Area?
Two one-win teams take the field tonight for Week 9 of Thursday Night Football. Neither team had envisioned 2018 going quite like this, but with starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo going down with an ACL injury early in the year, and Jon Gruden's return not going exactly as the Oakland Raiders had hoped, it's been a rough year.
So who will come out on top and get that second win? Let's dig in and find out.
The quarterback position has been a topsy-turvy one, and with Jimmy G going down, C.J. Beathard has stepped into the fold to lead the offense, though he is questionable for tonight's game. Assuming he is able to suit up, Beathard enters tonight's game having struggled so far this season. In reviewing the 32 quarterbacks with 150 or more drop backs this year, the second-year pro ranks third-worst in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, with a mark of -0.08. In terms of Passing Success Rate, or the percentage of drop backs resulting in positive NEP, Beathard is significantly better, at 26th (43.64%).
On the flip side, Derek Carr hasn't been a whole lot better in 2018. Among the same group of quarterbacks, Carr ranks only 20th in Passing NEP per drop back (0.09), and in terms of Passing Success Rate, he has been far better, clocking in fourth (54.32%).
Both signal-callers seem very unsure about pushing the ball downfield. In terms of Average Intended Air Yards (IAY), which measures the average Air Yards a passer throws on all attempts, Carr is the worst in the league (6.0 IAY), and Beathard is fourth-worst (6.7 IAY).
From a fantasy perspective, as you might expect, these guys aren't lighting the world on fire, as seen from their point-per-game and FanDuel-point-per game marks.
In terms of situation-neutral pace, it may behoove the Raiders to follow along with what the 49ers are doing. San Francisco ranks 8th (29.80 seconds), whereas Oakland ranks 30th (33.40).
With neither team possessing a decided edge at the quarterback position, how do the running games stack up?
Running Back Play
Unfortunately, San Francisco has not been able to escape the injury bug both at the quarterback and running back positions. Prior to even starting the season, Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL in practice, turning things over to Alfred Morris and Matt Breida.
Despite being a bit banged up, Breida appears to be the primary ball carrier.
Breida has been a very efficient runner this season. Among runners with 50 or more carries, Breida has posted a solid 0.08 Rushing NEP per play mark, good for 10th-best. For Oakland, they've been bit by the injury bug, too, as Marshawn Lynch was just placed on Injured Reserve. That'll leave the rushing duties to Doug Martin, and that may not go so well. Toting the rock 40 times this season, Martin has been extremely poor with a Rushing NEP per play mark of -0.15.
It looks like the 49ers have the edge in the ground game, but can these defenses cause problems in tonight's contest?
These are some bad defenses that will take the field tonight. In looking at numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, both teams have struggled mightily overall on defense this year, as Oakland clocks in second-worst, while the 49ers haven't been much better, at 25th.
From analyzing Oakland's perspective, there haven't been a lot of positive takeaways, as they have the league's worst passing defense and the second-worst rushing defense. San Francisco has been average against the run, ranking 16th, while they've slipped a bit against the pass (21st).
Getting pressure on the opposing quarterback has been a problem for both teams in 2018. In terms of Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, which measures sacks plus intentional grounding penalties, Oakland checks in last in this category as well, tallying seven sacks on their way to a mark of 3.1%. San Francisco has been a notch better, ranking 22nd with a mark of 6.5%. As Oakland is the only team with single-digit sacks, do you think they could have used this guy?
As you may expect with two struggling defensive units, they find it difficult to get the ball back in the hands of their offenses. San Francisco ranks 18th in yards allowed per drive (32.14), while Oakland ranks 27th (38.03). They also haven't forced many turnovers. In fact, San Francisco has forced the least amount in the league (five), while Oakland is only a smidge better (six).
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