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ALAMEDA

Have you heard about the Thursday night showdown at Levi’s Stadium? It’s the Battle of the Bay (exclamation point optional), though in this case it’s less Trafalgar, and more “two elderly kayakers vainly trying to smack one another with their paddles.”

Sorry, folks, but the Raiders and the 49ers just aren’t very good. In fact, we can reasonably say they’re very, very bad. The Raiders are 1-6. The 49ers are 1-7. According to numbers cruncher Josh Dubow of the Associated Press, that combined record of 2-13 will be the worst ever among NFL teams in a primetime game on Nov. 1 or later. “Thursday Night Football” ratings are expected to fall between “Alaskan Bush People” and “Crikey! It’s the Irwins” during that time slot.

“I wish the game had two 8-1 or 7-1 teams playing in it,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Monday at team headquarters. “Hopefully someday soon you’ll see a game like that.”

Thursday will not be that day. Gruden II vs. Jimmy G was supposed to be a slugfest. Instead, it’s a festival of slugs.

But these are the only two NFL teams we have around here, so we might as well handicap their first meeting since 2014. Let’s look at the data and figure out who will wake up Friday as a two-win team.

Let’s start with the obvious, if you’re C.J. Beathard’s spleen. The 49ers’ offensive line, expected to be a good deal better than it was in 2017, looks spookily similar. Beathard, San Francisco’s harried young quarterback, has been sacked 18 times over five games, and 11 times in the past two weeks. He is a quarterback in the same way that side of beef in “Rocky” was a meal. All told, 49ers QBs have been dumped 31 times this year, tied for second most in the NFL.

So Beathard’s protection must be a big advantage for the Raiders, right? Well, hold on. Because if there is any team incapable of taking advantage of the leaky SF offensive line, it’s Gruden’s.

The Raiders have just seven sacks, worst in the league, in seven games. My cousin, an advanced mathematician, tells me that averages out to one per game. This might be the appropriate place to interject that the Raiders traded one of the best pass rushers in the league, Khalil Mack, leaving a defensive line that is a mix of creaky oldies and gullible rookies. Oakland’s is the only NFL defensive line that skips a generation.

OK, then, no advantage there. How about when the Raiders drop back to pass?

This should be a positive for the 49ers, because the Oakland receiving corps is, shall we say, tame. It looked pretty good on paper before the season started. But there’s a hole in the paper now, with wide receiver Amari Cooper traded to Dallas last week. Tight end Jared Cook is a legitimate threat, but the other receivers — Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, Brandon LaFell and Seth Roberts — haven’t been open much since the season began.

The 49ers defensive backs should be able to shut these guys down. Except, have you seen the 49ers defensive backs? Cornerback Richard Sherman has turned back the clock and, for the most part, has played really well in 2018. But the rest of the SF secondary resembles a boulevard lined with those skinny inflatable figures that frantically bend in every direction and wave their arms. This unit wasn’t very good when it was healthy, and it’s worse lately after a wave of injuries.

Tyvis Powell vs. Seth Roberts? We’re gonna call that a wash.

All right, all right. This hasn’t been very productive. Let’s move along — to turnovers! The 49ers are a veritable fountain of fumbles. As a team, they have fumbled 20 times this season, tied with the Eagles for most in the league. If the Niners were a slot machine, they’d be flashing and ding-dinging and paying out footballs all night long. This should be a real opportunity for the Raiders.

Oh boy. The Raiders defense, as it turns out, has no real interest in fumbles. They have forced five loose balls in 2018, tied with the Packers for fewest in the NFL. Picture 49ers halfback Matt Breida, running downfield while spinning the football on his index finger like Meadowlark Lemon, and a variety of Raiders defenders swatting at it and whiffing. We’re back to Square One.

Uhh, let’s try special teams. The Raiders have a rookie punter named Johnnie Townsend. Oakland spent a fifth-round draft pick on him, but through eight weeks he ranks low in both punting average (42.9) and net average (38.7). With the game tied 28-28 on Sunday, Townsend punted to the Colts and the ball took a great bounce in the wrong direction. It wound up traveling 24 yards. Indianapolis took advantage of the great field position and marched to a touchdown, and that was that.

So maybe the 49ers can take one of those punts and … and … yeah, about that. San Francisco’s Dante Pettis, Richie James and Trent Taylor have combined to average a meager 4.7 yards on punt returns this season. I’d advise using Oakland punts as potty breaks Thursday night.

All right, all right, we’re overthinking this. Let’s go big picture. Somebody will make plays in this game. Considering how even the Raiders and 49ers are, it’s likely to be a dogfight (or something similarly pleasing to the eye) as they enter the fourth quarter. Whom should we expect to pull out the victory?

The 49ers? They have been outscored 66-30 in the fourth quarter this year. In six of their eight games, they have scored exactly three points in the final frame. Last week against the lowly Arizona Cardinals, the Niners were up 12-3 as the fourth period began, against a gun-shy rookie quarterback who weighs 127 pounds. They lost, punctuating the collapse with a shotgun snap that sailed over Beathard’s head, Buster Keaton style, on the final play of the game.

And the Raiders? Their fourth-quarter ledger is even worse: 37 points in the black column (I’m tossing in a game-winning field goal in overtime), and a disturbing 85 points (an average of 12.14 per game) in the red. If an NFL team gave up 12.14 points every quarter, they would surrender 777 over the course of the season. I believe that’s bad. Sunday, the tepid Colts scored three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to race past the Raiders and win 42-28.

That’s it. I give up. Either this game will end in a tie, or the mixed crowd at Levi’s will storm the field and demand the 49ers and Raiders stop playing, for the good of the children. Let’s be real. There simply is no way either of these teams can win.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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