Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck met with the media on Monday, and he had some interesting comments about the upcoming matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Our friends at Silver & Black Pride have the full rundown, but one of the most notable was his description of the matchup:
"I think the best thing for us now is to turn all of our attention and our focus to what lies ahead, and that's this bloodbath that I think we're about to have against the 49ers," said Tuck. "Big rivalry game. Everybody in this area has been waiting for this game for a long time."
Tuck was talking about the matchup in the context of moving past the Raiders ugly loss to the St. Louis Rams. And a rivalry matchup is one way to look ahead and distract yourself from a bad loss.
The problem with that notion is the idea there is even really a rivalry at this point. This is less about one team being bad and one team being good, and more about the lack of frequent matchups between the teams. The 49ers will travel up the Bay on Sunday to face the Raiders in the first matchup between these two teams since the 2011 preseason game at Candlestick Park. That game marked the last of their annual preseason series, which was cancelled after violence marred that game.
Other than that, being in opposite conference means they only face each other every four years. While the fan bases of these two teams have a fairly intense rivalry, I just don't know that I can see an on-field rivalry at this point. Tuck said that Charles Woodson talked it up a bit, but as Levi said over at Silver & Black Pride, it is more about pride. The 49ers are playing a game they desperately need to remain in the playoff chase, while the Raiders are just looking to finish up strong in what has otherwise been an ugly season.
For the 49ers players and coaches, is this game going to mean anything more than getting a crucial win in hopes of making the playoffs? It will be viewed differently in that context by the 49ers and Raiders personnel, but does playing a geographic rival for the first time in over three years really have much rivalry context to it?