After losing to the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night, the 49ers are looking for positives.
They go into their matchup with the Raiders in Oakland Sunday afternoon eager to get back on the winning track. At 7-5, the Niners are on the outside of the playoff bubble, and need to go 4-0 or 3-1 over their final four games -- plus get some help -- to reach the postseason for the fourth straight year.
Recent history, at least, is on their side.
Over the past three seasons, the 49ers’ 10-2 record over the final four games of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons is tied for best in the NFL (along with the Patriots and Chargers), and a win Sunday at O.co Coliseum would give the 49ers six straight victories in the season’s final month.
The Raiders, of course, are just 1-11, were just blown out 52-0 by the Rams, have the NFL’s worst defense against the run and have a rookie quarterback who hasn’t had the luxury of deep-threat receivers or a solid running game. So, oddsmakers favor the 49ers by as much as 9½ points to win Sunday’s cross-Bay matchup. And a win Sunday for the 49ers would give Harbaugh a 12-3 all-time mark against AFC teams.
Yet this is an important game for the 49ers, who need to regain some of their swagger and confidence that took a beating in the loss to Seattle.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is coming off one of his worst games as a pro, and the usually solid rushing attack was stuffed by the Seahawks.
This past week has been a rather quiet week for the 49ers, many of whom have showed their game faces to the media since the Seahawks loss.
And, for the 49ers, perhaps that’s a good thing.
When Kaepernick met with the media this week, he didn’t say much. His answers to questions were brief, terse and devoid of any useful information.
To offensive coordinator Greg Roman, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He sees Kaepernick as still stinging from the embarrassing loss on Thanksgiving.
“The beauty of Colin is he’s own harshest critic,” Roman told reporters Thursday. “And when we have a rough game as an offense, he comes back out swinging for the fence.”
Though right tackle Anthony Davis still hasn’t been cleared (from a concussion) to play Sunday, expect the 49ers to try to establish a running game early vs. Oakland. The Raiders have the 32nd-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, so it could be vulnerable to Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde and Kaepernick himself running the football.
If the 49ers can get some momentum early, the Raiders may not be able to keep up, and San Francisco could notch victory No. 8. In fact, the 49ers under Harbaugh have played very well after Thursday night games. In three such games, they’ve outscored their opponents 84-6.
However, they can’t afford a slow start in Oakland, one in which the Raiders can hang around and perhaps pull out close, late win.
With four games remaining, the 49ers need to get hot and run the table. After the Raiders game comes a trip to Seattle and home games against the Chargers and Cardinals. That’s not an easy road to the playoffs. But it will be much more possible with a victory Sunday across the Bay.