One one play away — one bad call away, their ardent fans might say — from winning the Super Bowl last February. Many prognosticators (including the ones who count, in Las Vegas) expect them to make a return trip to the big game this season. The Raiders, meanwhile, remain stuck on the NFL's bottom rung. Coming off a 4-12 season, they showed few signs of improvement in the preseason.
On the surface, the Bay Area's two pro football teams are neighbors with nothing in common. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll spot some similar themes as our local squads prepare for NFL opening weekend.
<cf103>DOOMED BY HISTORY</cf>
A decade of losing: Remember when Oakland represented the AFC in Super Bowl XXXVII? Neither do we. Since that one-sided loss to Tampa Bay, the Raiders have stumbled and limped through 10 consecutive non-winning seasons. (They went 8-8 in 2010 and 2011.) It's the longest current streak of ineptitude in the NFL, one year longer than the St. Louis Rams'.
Given that culture of losing, even the most optimistic citizens of Raider Nation have a hard time envisioning their team having a breakout season in 2013.
The Super Bowl curse: It seems like a perfectly natural progression. A team loses the Super Bowl, makes a few tweaks and comes back to win it all the next year. The Dallas Cowboys did it 1971, and the team they beat to get there, the Miami Dolphins, did it in 1972. Since then ... well, not so much.
Forty Super Bowl losers have come and gone, without one of them hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy the following year. Is it the crushing emotions of a Super Bowl loss that feeds this trend? Is it NFL parity? Is it the fault of the Buffalo Bills? Hard to say, but whatever the reason, history argues against the 49ers taking that final step in February.
<cf103>WEEK 2 SHOWDOWNS</cf>
<CF103>49ers at Seahawks:</CF> Welcome to the best rivalry in the NFL right now. The coaches don't like one another. The games are physical and hard-fought. And Seattle and San Francisco just might be the two best teams in the league. The twice-annual slugfest resumes with a prime-time game at raucous CenturyLink Field on Sept. 15.
<CF103>Jaguars at Raiders: </CF>At the other end of the spectrum you have this clunker at Oakland. While it may lack in marquee talent, though, it very well might determine the worst team in the NFL. In other words, this could be a loser-take-all battle for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. Teddy Bridgewater, anybody?
<CF103>COACH IN THE HOT SEAT</cf>
<MC><CF103>Raiders'</CF> Dennis Allen: Gone are the days when an NFL head coach gets a few years to turn around his team. "Patience" is not part of the lexicon in this league. The Raiders were bad last year; there is no way around it. And Allen had no track record as a head coach before he came to Oakland. In fact, he had just one season as a defensive coordinator. If the Raiders don't make significant progress in 2013 — anything worse than 7-9 would seem to be the kiss of death — it's hard to imagine general manager Reggie McKenzie bringing Allen back for Year 3.