Time: 4:30 p.m. EST, Saturday
Straight Up: New Orleans
Against the Spread: New Orleans -3.5
Over/Under: Under 47.5
Weather: The forecast is for sunny and in the 60s. Good break for the Saints. Now, if the field isn't too spongy things could be much more equal.
New Orleans—WR Lance Moore is still questionable. Drew Brees missed him in the first half last week before he adjusted and just threw it to everyone else.
Safety Roman Harper hurt his ankle versus Detroit. He’s a hard-hitting, intimidating DB whom the Saints need.
San Francisco—Rookie FB Bruce Miller has a knee issue that has him questionable. That is very bad news for both Niners RBs.
WRs Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn, Jr. are both probable with a concussion and sore ankle respectively. Ginn is the return man, so watch to see if his ankle is hampering him.
The absolute best fan sign of the weekend was in the Super Dome and held by a teen-aged boy. It said, “Here, Kitty, Kitty.”
The Saints struggled a bit in the first half against an intense Lions defense. Then they came out of the locker room firing and it was all over. Like 626 yards of offense over.
As always, I have to give a tip of the hat to the offensive line. I'm sure Drew gives them something a big more tangible.
The New Orleans offensive line is anchored by sophomore center Brian De La Puente. Being Brees’ center could be a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, if you miss a defensive read, the chances are high that No. 9 will see it anyway. On the other hand, I’m guessing that Brees probably holds his line to a high standard.
Then there’s that whole don’t-be-the-guy-who-missed-the-block-that-got-Drew-hurt thing. Maybe De La Puente and Jeff Saturday can start a support group for centers under pressure. Then, once the Pats figure out who is where on their O-line, that center can join.
While we’re on the O-line subject, there are many people (particularly Lions fans) who believe that the referees were not watching the blocking/holding very closely on the Saints. Those people have a point and I wonder if the officials in San Francisco will feel the need to overcompensate?
Brees completed 33 of 43 passes for 466 yards, three TDs and zero INTs last week. He highlighted his night with three completions of at least 40 yards.
Jason Taylor said on NFL GameDay Scoreboard: “I’m kind of depressed right now. We could have had Drew Brees twice in Miami. Once in the draft and once in free agency. Twice!”
I’m not sure how Sean Payton convinced the Saints front office to take what was considered to be a significant risk in signing Brees. Look like geniuses now, don’t they?
Frankly, the only surprise from the Saints prolific offense was that New Orleans RBs rushed 36 times for 167 yards. But they did it in typical N’Awleans fashion, with three different running backs and a fullback. Why have one offensive weapon when four will do?
New Orleans RB Pierre Thomas had eight carries for 66 yards and a TD. Those numbers do not begin to describe Thomas’ clutch-yards contribution to the wild-card game.
This man does not receive nearly enough credit in the public. Well, at least the public outside of the Crescent City. I’ve heard Drew Brees praise him to the rafters. That’s a QB who knows that the rushers are his best buddies. Well, except for the line. But I think we covered that.
NFL Network’s GameDay Final guest analyst Phillip Rivers was depressed too as he missed RB Darren Sproles: “He was pound-for-pound the strongest guy on our team.”
All three RBs can also catch and even rookie RB Jed Collins has several receptions, including a couple for TDs. Let’s see, that’s a handful of WRs, an Pro Bowl TE and now four rushers for Drew Brees to choose from. And that doesn't count No. 1 draft pick, Mark Ingram (out with injury.)
No wonder he has over 5,000 yards and rising.
For those of you who haven’t been watching this record-setting offense (and how can you can you call yourselves football fans?), this running game should be cause for even more celebration.
But if you are Niners fan, it provides a serious new wrinkle for Harbaugh’s D.
The New Orleans defense held Detroit to 22 first downs, only two of which were on the ground. Wow.
The Saints converted three of four fourth-down attempts. I have never seen a coach less afraid of 4th-and-3 in my life. He makes Mike Smith look like an amateur.
In a game with 626 offensive yards (and no punts), it’s easy to overlook the New Orleans D. But CB Jabari Greer came up with two key late INTs.
I was concerned that the Saints wouldn’t be able to handle the Lions’ D-line. But, with the help of that running game, the Saints kept the Detroit D on the field forever in the second half and wore them out. I’m sure that they will try the same tactic with the 49ers.
The Niners should take note of the fact that, before they got tired, the physical Detroit defense was rattling those finesse Saints WRs. The first-half drops weren’t bad passes; they were nervous WRs. Hmmm.
The San Francisco 49ers have a terrific young defense, a great running back (who has an excellent backup RB) and a very good offensive game plan.
They also had a scare in Week 17, when their game in St. Louis was much closer than it should have been.
The talented but uneven Rams defense held San Francisco to 116 yards on 37 carries. Give credit to Jim Harbaugh for not giving up on the run. They have to have 25-30 rushing attempts to give Alex Smith a chance to get going in the passing game.
I’m sure that the Saints will want to get ahead early and force Alex Smith to beat them through the air. The Niners rank 29th in passing offense. Hmmm.
Let’s cut to the chase: The game will be determined on two factors:
1) Whether or not a defense ranked second in points allowed (14.3) and fourth in yards allowed (308.2) can stop the Saints offense; and
2) Whether or not SF RBs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter can control the time of possession by running the football against the New Orleans D.
In the past three games, the Saints have given up 77 yards per game on the ground. The Niners have rushed for almost 132 yards per game in the same time period. These are not compatible numbers going into the divisional game.
Most of the experts think that the rested San Francisco defense can rise to the occasion because the Saints are not nearly as explosive on grass. Okay, so they’ll only score 30 points instead of 45.
San Francisco is a young, talented well-coached team. They might be able to pull this off.
New Orleans is a veteran, talented well-coached team. I’m going with Brees.