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Raiders And Heyward-Bey Versus 49ers And Crabtree

James’s last update on Michael Crabtree was not intended to go in the matchup preview, but it might as well have been.

The Raiders currently have a 32nd DVOA ranking guarding the oppositions number one receiver. Now, I am sure you are asking: “Richard, how can this be the case when the Raiders have Nnamdi Asomugha?”

Well, the answer is simple: They seldom use Asomugha to follow the teams best receiver. They did this for the majority of the Arizona game and Asomugha held Larry Fitzgerlad to one catch (Fitzgerald’a TD grab came against a zone).

Much the the chagrin of many fans, the Raiders tend to stick Asomugha on one side and leave him there. They also have the nagging tendency to have coverage breakdowns and missed assignments that lead to wide open receivers. See Charger Malcom Floyd and his 200+ yards last week.

So, will Crabtree have a big day against the Raiders? It probably comes down to one thing: Will Asomugha shadow Crabtree. At first glimpse, this doesn’t look like the kind of situation where the Raiders would have Asomugha follow around one player. Looking further, I can’t help but think, maybe there was never a time where they would be more inclined to do so.

As James acutely pointed to Crabtree’s competitiveness and ability to be fueled by scorn, Crabtree may find he is still light years behind one man in being driven by spite. That man is Al Davis.

Al Davis does not like to lose a battle of spite.

Davis was likely the driving force behind selecting Heyward-Bey over Crabtree. The last thing Davis is going to want to see is Crabtree running free in the secondary for a big game while Heyward-Bey runs around silently and gets his seventh game without a catch.

Davis has always made sure his imprint is on the defense and he very well may make it known that the coaches should use Nnamdi to shut down the WR that openly mocked the Raiders when they did not select him.

On the same note, I am sure he would like to see Heyward-Bey have his biggest game. The first three games Heyward-Bey was getting plenty of throws his way. These throws have tapered off the last two weeks, which happened to coincide with a groin pull.

I would be shocked if Heyward-Bey was not a focal point this week. The only thing holding him back may be his Quarterback. Jason Campbell’s strength has never been getting the Wide Receivers the ball.