Week 11’s NFC game of the week is undoubtedly the matchup between the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints and last season’s NFC Champion, the San Francisco 49ers. Recent meetings between these two franchises have not gone New Orleans’ way, with a regular season loss in the Superdome last season and the loss at San Francisco in the divisional round of the playoffs in the 2011 season. This game also has playoff implications.
The Saints want to keep ahead of the Carolina Panthers in the tail end of the season, and San Francisco will be looking to secure a wild-card spot, assuming the Seattle Seahawks finish the season strong. A loss would not be the end of the world for either team, but any setback this close to the end of the season could easily shake things up a bit.
New Orleans is currently 5-0 this season at home, but their high powered offense might stall a bit against a tough, disciplined 49ers defense. San Francisco has the fourth ranked defense overall in terms of yards per game, and their passing and rushing defense is ranked eighth and 13th respectively. The 49ers also have a +4 giveaway/takeaway ratio.
The Saints’ high-flying offense, No. 2 by yards per game, and Drew Brees will be tested against San Francisco and the return of pass rusher Aldon Smith. Smith recently missed five games after seeking treatment for substance abuse. Last year, he recorded 19.5 sacks, but has recorded only 4.5 up to this point. As a team, the 49ers have recorded 20 sacks total through their first nine games.
This contest should be an exciting one to watch, and Saints’ head coach Sean Payton will likely be looking for a bit of payback following their two previous losses against San Francisco. At the beginning of the season, I probably would have picked San Francisco over the Saints because of the 49ers’ incredible Super Bowl run from the prior season and the question marks surrounding the return of Payton and the hiring of Rob Ryan. Now, however, I have to pick the Saints, at home, on a roll against an offense that has been relying primarily on running back Frank Gore.
Sit back and watch this one somewhere comfortable, it’s going to be a good one.