Injuries are the major issue here regarding running backs. Matt Breida has been dealing with nagging hamstring and calf injuries for a while, while Marshawn Lynch has been out for some time, leaving a committee to pick up the slack.
If Matt Breida is playing, he’s an instant start. The Raiders defense should not scare anyone. Maurice Hurst has played very well on the interior, but other than him, I would argue that Raiders cannot stop anyone. Just take a look at their season stats where the Raiders have allowed teams to rush for 1013 yards at a 4.9 YPC. That is absolutely insane.
Couple that with the fact that Mike McGlinchey is the best run blocking tackle in the league, not to mention the other players of a relatively-talented offensive line, and you have an environment for havoc.
Expect to see a lot of runs if Mullens goes under center. I would definitely start Breida or Morris, depending on who’s starting.
Verdict: Start the starter
I would try to avoid starting any Raiders running backs. I know that Doug Martin was playing quite well last week before the fumble, ending the game with 13 rushes for 72 yards. But I also know that DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard got considerable snaps in that game, and that Martin’s fumble basically sealed the loss for the Raiders.
Now the 49ers do allow the thirteenth most points to running backs, but that really isn’t very bad, especially considering that they’ve faced Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt already. Players like that have hurt this time. Players of Martin’s ilk, not so much.
Another factor here is just how bad the 49ers can be at pass defense. Gruden might not even want to run the ball a ton given the issues that the 49ers have stopping the pass. This game does not seem to set the perfect situation like the Niners have.