We've gotten to the point in the season at which there are two ways to "watch" a game.
On the one hand, the mantra "a win is a win is a win" is viable. If getting to the Super Bowl is just a crapshoot and getting into the playoffs is a ticket to that dance, then we might watch the game with this mantra in mind. If the 49ers win out, they stand a decent shot of getting into the playoffs. If they don't, then they have a much harder time getting in. It doesn't matter if it's against the Raiders or the Seahawks. Just win, baby. This rhetoric has been built into the NFL for a long time now. It's as much a part of the DNA of the NFL as the gridiron and the pigskin.
On the other hand, how a team plays is indicative of future success. After the Seattle game, a few people here echoed a thought that I'm sure many of us had: based upon how we were playing in the weeks leading up to that game, it came as no surprise that the defense played well and the offense was stomped. That's what the team was - a great defense and a horrible offense. It's been pretty obvious. We might fight over the causes (I, for one, am a bit more in the anti-Roman camp, for example, but recognize that Colin Kaepernick just isn't getting it done), but we all know what's going on. The offense cannot get the job done.
So I've been wondering about the Raiders game: are we to consider this a barometric game? The Raiders are, objectively, not good. I don't think there's anybody out there who will fight me on that issue. And, if there are some Raiders fans out there who think I am out of line with that characterization, please speak up. But, let's continue to labor under the assumption that the 49ers should beat the Raiders. The 49ers are the Monstars to the Raiders' Looney Tunes' Tune Squad without Michael Jordan; the 49ers are Cobra Kai, the Raiders Daniel-san. The 49ers should win this game. And, they should be able to do so pretty convincingly. The Rams beat the Raiders recently by an official score of, let me check, 1,113 to 0. If the 49ers can't get their offense in particular going against the Raiders, then I don't think we can have much hope finishing out the rest of the season in a winning fashion. The results of the games matter.
However, the Tune Squad won the game. The Colin Kai failed to sweep the leg or, you know, run a basic sweep play. The NFL is full of underdogs that come out of nowhere and win games. The Raiders did it this season, in fact. It's not outside of the realm of possibility that the Raiders win this game. In fact, I'm sure all of us can see how it would happen too, and it would involve the offense getting blistered. If the 49ers start playing to win big, they might just lose.
So, question for discussion: is tomorrow's game a barometric game? What results do we care about? Is a win enough? Or, if it's the result of a last minute field goal that wins the game 9-6, are we going to still be concerned?