1. Drew Brees needs to continue being Drew Brees: Drew Brees is having a record breaking season and the Saints will need him to continue his stellar play if they want to get past the 49ers. Brees threw for 3 touchdowns and 466 yards in the NFC wildcard game and has been very accurate with his passes thus far (33/43 76%). Brees’ accuracy and poise can only benefit the team and help secure a victory. To put it plain and simple, if Brees has another game in the divisional game like he did in the wildcard game there is no way the Saints can lose.
2. Saints’ receivers need to continue their excellent play: The usual suspects need to show up at Candlestick Park and catch for some major yardage. Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem need to continue catching balls from Brees and light up the scoreboard. I have always said that a quarterback is only as good as his receivers and up to this point the Saints’ receiving corps has proven me right. The Saints’ receivers will be tested this Saturday as the 49ers have recorded 23 interceptions this season, tied for 2nd most in the league. Also, the 49ers have safety Dashon Goldson, who had 6 interceptions this season (tied for second in the league). I expect to see Brees pass it to Graham often because I expect it will be difficult for the 49ers’ cornerbacks to cover the 6’7″ Graham.
3. The running back triumvirate needs to run over San Francisco: The running back trio of Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory need to continue run over defenses like they did against the Lions. The three running backs combined for 164 yards in the NFC wildcard game and the Saints will need them to have that same kind of production against the 49ers on Saturday. They have a potent combination as the three complement each other and offer a nice balance to the Saints’ passing game. If the three of them can produce over 100 yards and a couple touchdowns I think they will be able to move on to the NFC championship game.
4. The Saints’ secondary cannot allow big plays: Alex Smith is not an elite quarterback by any means, but he is still an NFL quarterback and if given the opportunity can make big plays. The Saints’ secondary cannot allow the 49ers to catch for major yardage and if they can force a few turnovers and catch some interceptions they should win the game.
5. The Saints’ defense needs to pressure quarterback, Alex Smith: I expect the Saints to utilize the blitz in this game against the 49ers. Smith has thrown for 5 interceptions this season and if the Saints can pressure him he might make some mistakes. Furthermore, if the Saints can get a few sacks Alex Smith might have to think twice before trying to make a big play.