NFC Divisional Playoffs: 4 Reasons New Orleans Can Dominate San Francisco

Zayne Grantham@ZPGSportsContributor IIIJanuary 11, 2012

NFC Divisional Playoffs: 4 Reasons New Orleans Can Dominate San Francisco

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    This New Orleans Saints will be playing their second playoff game of this season on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers.

    Many have already dubbed this the "Game of the Week" and most expect a great game from both of these powerful teams. The Saints are known for the high-flying offense and below average defense, where as the 49ers are known for their All-Pro defense and abnormal run-first offense.

    Analysts have made great arguments for both teams, and either one of these clubs could walk away victorious on Saturday. However, I believe the team that wins this game will be the New Orleans Saints.

    The Saints and 49ers will undoubtedly be ready to play this game and both know how important it is to shut down the opposing team's game plan. San Francisco is a tough place to play, and the Saints will need to bring their best game to win against the 49ers at home.

    The Saints know this, and I strongly believe that they can win at Candlestick. Here are four reasons why the Saints could end up blowing out the 49ers.

Offensive Firepower

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    Everyone knows about the Saints' offense at this point, and the 49ers are definitely not underestimating the attack of the New Orleans offense.

    However, I believe that you simply cannot shut down this unit. The 49ers should be able to slow the Saints down, but even then New Orleans can probably still put up four touchdowns.

    I wrote before that it is not only the Saints' passing game that is so good, but also the running game. Now, many people have told me that if the Saints try to run the ball against the 49ers, then they will struggle. That may be so, but can the 49ers really stop the Saints' passing attack as well?

    The real question boils down to: Can the 49ers shut down the Saints' running attack and passing attack for four whole quarters?

    The answer is an resounding "no." The Saints have been the hottest team in the NFL in the past two months, and they know what it will take to win this game.

    Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory will come to San Francisco ready to run the ball with power and elusiveness. Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Adrian Arrington and Jimmy Graham will come knowing the test that they face, and ready for the challenge.

    The offensive line, which consists of three Pro Bowlers this year, knows about the 49ers' ability to bring pressure, and they will be able to slow down that rush. Drew Brees, of all people, will be ready to expose every hole there is in the 49ers' great defense and lead his team to victory.

    The Saints may not put up 600 yards of offense and 40 points on the scoreboard, but they can easily outscore the San Francisco 49ers. 

Defensive Pressure

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    The New Orleans Saints defense is a unit that is consistently underestimated, yet constantly proves its ability to come up big in the most important situations.

    The Saints needed some turnovers in their game against the Lions and Jabari Greer came away with two interceptions that set up Saints' scores and essentially iced the game. The New Orleans defense is known for Gregg Williams and his passion for bringing pressure. He blitzes more than any team in the league, and it sometimes gets him into trouble, but he just as often wreaks havoc on the opposing offense.

    I have no doubt that Williams and the Saints' defense will bring pressure against Alex Smith and the 49ers' offense. Smith is not an amazing quarterback and can be pushed into bad decisions. San Francisco protects Smith by running the ball with Frank Gore and throwing short, high-percentage passes.

    The Saints' run defense, despite the stats, is still a weakness for the team, but if Williams and company are able to go into a game knowing that the run game is all the offense has, then the Saints can shut it down.

    New Orleans understands the importance of Gore to the 49er offense and they will focus on stopping him. The secondary of the Saints is a very good one and they can take care of the 49er wide receivers.

    However, the most important factor will be how well the Saints can pressure the offense of San Francisco. Not only do the Saints need to blitz and pressure Smith, but they need to blow up the offensive line and stop the running backs for losses in the backfield.

    The Saints have a talented roster and there is no doubt that they can do this, but it will take a good effort from the interior lineman and outside rushers.

    I look for the Saints to have a big defensive game against the 49ers and finally show the world that New Orleans can play good defense.

Coaching Battle

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    New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has proven that he is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL in the last few years. Jim Harbaugh is one of the brightest, young coaches in the game.

    These two will match wits against each other on Saturday and the battle should be intriguing.

    Harbaugh's players are filled with passion and hunger to be the best. His guys have never been winners, but instead have played in mediocrity and embarrassment for years, whereas Payton's players are just two years removed from a Super Bowl Championship. His guys have been in the playoffs the last three years and know what success is like.

    The same goes for the coaches. This is another playoff game for Payton and company, while Harbaugh and his boys are here for the first time.

    Payton more than likely has a few tricks up his sleeve and will probably show the 49ers a few things that will not be seen on footage from the year. The difference is that Payton and his team expected to be in the playoffs and the 49ers did not.

    No one expected the 49ers to go 13-3 and become the second seed this year, but a lot of people expected this kind of year from the Saints.

    Payton and Harbaugh are very similar in that they demand control of the locker room and coach the game with a lot of passion and intelligence. However, Payton knows the difference between the playoffs and regular season, and Harbaugh has yet to see that.

    Payton and the Saints definitely have the upper hand going into this coaching battle because Payton has been here before.


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    This feeds off of the last slide in the sense that the Saints have already done this.

    New Orleans' playoff experience is one thing that the 49ers simply cannot have for this game. Most players on the San Francisco roster have never even played in a postseason game, much less won one.

    The Saints roster is still filled with guys that have experienced a Super Bowl victory, and others that have only experienced last year's embarrassing loss to Seattle in the first-round. The Saints are hungry for redemption and are driven by experience.

    Drew Brees and the core group of that Saints team know how to win tough games in the playoffs and Alex Smith just does not have that experience.

    It will take a lot more than just experience, but the Saints can definitely use this factor to their advantage on Saturday. Along with this and the other pieces of the New Orleans team, they can dominate the 49ers.