Bold Predictions: Can the 2012 Raiders Be Better Than the 2011 49ers?

The San Francisco 49ers' performance last season was nothing short of sensational.

With Alex Smith, who was known as an average quarterback, and a brand-new coach in Jim Harbaugh, nobody expected the 49ers would conclude their season within tasting distance of a Super Bowl appearance.

Unfortunately for them, a tragic fumble by Kyle Williams gave the New York Giants a free pass to the Super Bowl.

Early in the season NFL analysts and columnists voiced votes of confidence for both Bay Area teams, not just San Francisco.

Injury after injury limited the ability for the Raiders to compete, and they slowly faded from playoff contention losing four out of the final five regular-season games, including an agonizing loss in the potential playoff clinching game to the rival San Diego Chargers in Week 17.

If the injury bug leaves the silver and black alone, there are ample reasons why the 2012 Raiders will be better than the 2011 49ers.

It starts with the quarterback: Carson Palmer has had a full offseason to get re-acclimated to the football environment and find his sanctuary in the Black Hole. He has the ability and weapons to return to the success he enjoyed early in his career with the Bengals.

He has put together 25+ TD seasons and 4,000+ yard seasons (before 4K became a mark hit by all of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league).

As outstanding as Alex Smith performed in the playoffs, the 49ers utilized Smith mainly for conservative play-calling where Harbaugh just hoped that he wouldn’t turn the ball over. And Smith didn’t—throwing merely five regular season interceptions and zero during the playoffs.

Carson Palmer will definitely throw more interceptions than Smith did last year, but that is because he will be trusted to make big plays. But he will put points on the board, something the 49ers were not the greatest at in 2011....

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