The match up between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11 is arguably the game of the week in the NFC. It may not be as heavy as the divisional showdown between the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and high-scoring Denver Broncos of the AFC West, but the Saints-49ers contest will be significant nonetheless.
If the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks do not slow down in the final few weeks of the season, which is a distinct possibility given their remaining schedule, San Francisco will have to fight their way into the playoffs by way of a wild card spot. Although New Orleans currently occupies the no. 1 spot in the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers are nipping at their heels and are poised to take over that position should the Saints make a mistake along the way.
This is certainly a big game for both franchises, their recent history notwithstanding.
To accomplish their goal of walking away from this one with a “W”, the Saints will have to accomplish much. First and foremost, their defense led by Rob Ryan will have to contain mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick and powerhouse runner Frank Gore. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin will also warrant attention, but will be less of a threat with Mario Manningham and tight end Vernon Davis listed as questionable for the game and battling through injuries.
This could end up being a shootout, so it will be paramount that New Orleans’ offense is on their game and limits turnovers. To this end, just how much of the Saints’ Jimmy Graham will we see against San Francisco?
Graham has been getting healthier since he suffered a foot injury in Week 6 against the New England Patriots, but has been used in a limited role. Through Weeks 8-10, Graham saw snap counts of 18, 56, 33 and was a on the field for 47 percent of the offensive snaps. This was to be expected as Graham continues to heal, but it’s still a stark contrast to his being in on a snap 70 percent of the time through Weeks 3-6.
Expect Graham’s workload and snap count to increase this week. His presence on the field can alter the way teams set up and run their defense, and a healthier Graham is a dangerous foe. Few teams have been able to defend him well enough to neutralize him as a threat on the field, but if any team can, it’s the 49ers.
This will be a great matchup.