The San Francisco 49ers are coming off two preseason wins against two of the top five teams in the NFL.
The third game against the rival Raiders will be a thing of beauty (Saturday at 6:00 pm).
The third game of a four-game preseason is traditionally a dress rehearsal for the regular season. What this basically means is that the starters play longer into the game.
For the 49ers, fans can get a good luck at some players they've missed in the first couple weeks.
Frank Gore may be seeing his first action with a new offensive line. With two rookie offensive linemen and a backup center to start the season, Gore has been held out of the first two preseason games for precautionary measures.
As wise as this is, expect Gore to be in there for at least one series against the lowly Raiders, who don't pose nearly the threat the other preseason challengers to the 49ers pose (Colts, Vikings, Chargers).
That's not to say that the traditionally cheap-shooting East Bay thug Raiders don't pose an injury threat; it's football, and anything can happen. It's just to say the Raiders suck and might not even be able to catch Gore.
Gore's newest backfield mate Brian Westbrook may also see his first action as a 49er, although don't expect offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye to tip his hand too much on how he plans to use this duo in the regular season.
Still, the thought of seeing the new starting backfield with the new offensive line lining up around a rejuvenated Alex Smith is something to get excited about.
Another reason to get excited for this dress rehearsal is the arrival of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree to the preseason puzzle.
The pair of tight ends who have filled Davis' shoes has been a highlight of the preseason.
Delanie Walker has looked fleet of foot while bowling his way downfield and can probably start for half the teams in the NFL right now.
Add to him a blocking tight end in Nate Byham, who has surprised everyone with his pass-catching and route-running ability, and you have a pair of tight ends that can perform admirably during a regular season.
Add to that pair a freakish athlete like Vernon Davis who outruns safeties deep down the middle of the field, and you have the best tight end group in football.
With the Oakland safeties worrying about Davis and the speed of Ted Ginn stretching the field, all eyes will be watching the main matchup of the night.
That one-on-one matchup will pit 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (No. 15) against Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (No. 21).
Nnamdi is the highest-paid corner in the NFL for a reason. Two reasons, actually: One is that Al Davis sucks just as bad as the rest of the Raiders and they had to overpay him to stay, and No. 2 is that he really is regarded as a top-three cornerback in the game today.
Crabtree’s potential is expected to pay off as the same kind of player for the 49ers, and while no one can be the next Jerry Rice, Crabtree's potential could lead him to being the next Terrell Owens for the Niners.
If Nnamdi and Michael both play, expect them to be locked up in one-on-one coverage every time they're both on the field.
The 49ers defense will be fun to watch if you consider watching three-and-outs and then five minutes of commercials all night long fun.
Don't expect the Raiders to challenge the 49ers' run defense too much, and with pass rushers like Manny Lawson and Travis LaBoy coming in on passing downs, don't expect the Raiders to pass the ball too well either.
Even if Abrayo Franklin signs his franchise tender this week, expect to see an emerging Ricky Jean-Francois anchoring the defense at the starting nose tackle position.
Shawntae Spencer has been solid in the secondary for the 49ers, and safety Michael Lewis has felt the pressure of the 49ers drafting Taylor Mays and is solidifying his starting position with stellar play this preseason.
Expect on Saturday to see the 49ers trounce the Raiders in a preseason matchup that pits an emerging power in the NFL against a consistently struggling franchise.
Expect a blowout victory for the Niners.
Expect that right when the 49er starters hit their stride, Mike Singletary will yank them out of there, leaving them and the fans hungry for the regular season.
Like every great showman knows...you always leave them wanting more.
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