The Raiders won’t have to travel far for their “Thursday Night Football” matchup in Santa Clara, California, against the San Francisco 49ers.
It could be the last time the Raiders and 49ers face each other in the regular season as Bay Area rivals. It’s not likely these two teams square off in this year’s or next year’s Super Bowls before the Raiders relocate to Las Vegas.
In a strange twist, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft could be on the line. The 1-6 Raiders and 1-7 49ers are at the bottom of the NFL standings.
Here are five things you need to know about the Raiders’ Week 9 opponent:
1Who is Nick Mullens?
The Raiders’ defense won’t face Jimmy Garoppolo, and there’s a strong a chance they also won’t get backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, who’s nursing an injured right wrist.
Third-string quarterback Nick Mullens is in line to get the start for his NFL debut. Who is Nick Mullens, you might ask. Mullens went undrafted in 2017 out of Southern Miss. Mullens has committed five turnovers in 93 preseason snaps. The Raiders’ defense, which has struggled to force turnovers, could have a solid outing.
If Mullens does get the start, he’ll have time to throw behind a stout offensive line. Mullens’ top weapon could be tight end George Kittle, who leads the team in receiving yards with 584. Speedy wideout Marquise Goodwin is healthy again and made an impact last week with a 55-yard touchdown reception against the Cardinals. Versatile running backs Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert can contribute as receivers.
3 Rookie tackles
For the past month, the Raiders have started rookie tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker. The Niners also have their own starting rookie tackle in Mike McGlinchey, who was drafted ninth overall. Many pundits had the Raiders selecting McGlinchey if he was available at No. 10. The Raiders ended up trading down and took Miller at No. 15. Both Miller and McGlinchey have had productive rookie seasons. McGlinchey has started every game at right tackle and has had the luxury of learning from left tackle veteran Joe Staley.
The 49ers have three former first-round picks on their defensive line but that hasn’t translated to sacks or a ferocious pass rush. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen had plenty of time in the pocket when he led the Cardinals to a comeback win against the Niners last week. Coach Kyle Shanahan said his team was lacking closers. He probably meant pass-rushers. Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner will look to create havoc against the Raiders.
Former All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is used to winning from his days with the Seattle Seahawks. He’s taken on a leadership role in his first season with the 49ers. There’s going to be a “Throwback Thursday” vibe if Sherman finds himself defending Jordy Nelson, also a former All-Pro in his heyday. Sherman returned from an injured calf last week but struggled to keep up with Larry Fitzgerald.