The New Orleans Saints are hosting the San Francisco 49ers in a grudge match of last season’s NFC divisional playoff game. The 49ers defeated the Saints at Candlestick Park last season to advance to the NFC championship game. This time around the teams will square off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and it has the makings to be a very good game.
The Saints have reached the .500 mark for the first time this season after defeating the Oakland Raiders in Week 11. The 49ers are coming off of a dominating win against the Chicago Bears on Monday night and are looking to keep their division lead. This game will feature the Saints’ potent offense against the 49ers’ disciplined defense. Furthermore, this game has playoff implications for both teams.
If the Saints can win this game, it would put them right in the thick of the wildcard hunt. For the 49ers a win would help them maintain their winning record and stay on top in their division. The game will be an exciting one and I could see it being a high scoring affair similar to the last time these two teams faced off.
Saints X Factor: The Saints’ x factor this week will be their defense. The Saints’ defense has shown that they have improved during this three-game winning streak. The Saints’ defense has come up big when it matters and this game against the 49ers is one of the biggest games they will play all season. If the Saints can stop the 49ers first ranked rushing attack (165.3 yards per game) than they will give themselves a chance to win this game. Furthermore, the secondary needs to continue to come up with big plays and whether they face off against Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick they need to be ready.
49ers X Factor: For the 49ers, their x factor will be the quarterbacks. Kaepernick may be starting the game, but that does not mean that he will be finishing it. Smith has been cleared to play and head coach Jim Harbaugh has said that he would entertain the idea of rotating his quarterbacks. Whichever quarterback plays, he must lead the 49ers offense with poise and certainty. That will mean creating a balanced attack and ensure that running back Frank Gore gets enough carries during the game. The 49ers have a good offense and they can fare well against the Saints’ improving defense.
How the Saints can win this game: The Saints will win this game if they stick to the game plan they have used during their three-game winning streak. The Saints need to establish a balanced offensive attack and their defense needs to continue to play well and come up with big plays. Furthermore, Drew Brees needs to continue to play at a high level and get his plethora of receivers involved. Also, the Saints should look to establish their ground game early and open things up for Brees and the passing game. If the Saints can play with their dynamic offense and improving defense, than they will win this game.
How the 49ers can win this game: The 49ers will win this game if they run all over the Saints. The Saints are the number one rushing team in the NFL and should look for Gore early and often. However, this game also figures to be a shootout so either Kaepernick or Smith will also need to throw the ball and try to match Brees’ output. At the end of the day the 49ers will need to rely on their great defense to contain Brees and the Saints’ offense to win the game.
Final Prediction: This is a good matchup, because it is the ultimate offense versus defense debate. This will be a tough game for both teams, but I think the Saints could actually pull this game out. There is a lot more on the line for the Saints as they attempt to get back into playoff contention. Also, the Saints are riding a hot streak and will be playing at home. Furthermore, the Saints did not forget that heartbreaking loss the 49ers gave them last season, so for all of those reasons I have to give it to the Saints. Saints win 37-35.