In a matchup of contrasting styles, the San Francisco 49ers will be hosting perhaps the hottest team in the NFL on Saturday (1:30 PM) as they take on the New Orleans Saints, led by quarterback Drew Brees.
In a sign that no one still believes in the Niners, they are the only home team during the Divisional Round of the playoffs to be an underdog according to the point spread out of Las Vegas. But is this really a new thing for San Francisco? They have faced questions all year about if they’re for real and when they’ll collapse; it just hasn’t happened.
If you look at the match ups, New Orleans has the clear advantage on offense. Drew Brees shattered Dan Marino’s record for most yardage in a season by a quarterback. They are deep at wide receiver and running back and have one of the biggest mismatches in the league in tight end Jimmy Graham. That prolific offense will face one of the toughest defenses in the league. It’s not a matter of stopping the Saints; that’s just not going to happen as the team has scored over 40 points in each of its last four games. It’s a matter of containing them and creating turnovers, which I believe the Niners can do.
In terms of San Francisco’s offense, they are a run-first team, relying on Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Quarterback Alex Smith relies heavily on the short passing game. And they have had one of the best seasons from a kicker in a long time. But thy can’t rely on field goals in this game. Those trips to the red zone have to net touchdowns . New Orleans has a fairly average defense with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams relying heavily on exotic blitz packages and trying to create turnovers. But I think San Francisco can move the ball against them.
The one factor is Candlestick Park. While the weather is supposed to be nice on Saturday, it can always be a bit blustery. Plus, the Saints are only 3-2 this season on natural grass and outdoors. It will be a factor.
Prediction time. I am not a 49ers fan so my view is fairly unbiased. I just think they are not getting enough credit for the season they have had. This defense is going to disrupt Drew Brees, pressure him and create a few much-needed turnovers. While Alex Smith won’t be great, he’ll make enough big plays in the passing game to open up lanes for the running backs. Final score: San Francisco 30, New Orleans 24.
Main Photo Credit: John Martinez Pavliga, via Wikimedia Commons