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NFL Playoff Picks: 5 Bold Predictions for the New Orleans Saints Offense

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Drew Brees #9 and  Robert Meachem #17 of the New Orleans Saints celebrate after their touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Nothing says playoff football quite like the second best offense in the league going up against the fourth ranked defense.

Once and for all we will know just how deadly the resurgent 49ers defense has become. Here are five bold predictions in anticipation for Saturday’s game between the second and third seeds in the NFC:

Drew Brees Will Throw For Under 250 Yards

If Tim Tebow threw for 250 yards then it would cause an uproar; when Brees achieves the mark it's business as usual. He averaged 342 yards per game during the regular season and tossed for 466 yards against the Lions in the wild-card round.

Yet he hasn’t faced a defense like the 49ers. Led by Justin Smith up front and Patrick Willis in the middle of the field, San Francisco allowed 230 yards per game.

Expect Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson to play razor-sharp coverage on a group of Saint receivers that don't have a threat like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

Saints Will Get Shut out in the First Quarter

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The Saints have yet to face a defense with the strength up front of the 49ers. How will the O-line adjust? With the 49ers' first playoff berth since 2002, the crowd is going to be incredibly loud. New Orleans will be slow to adjust to the crowd, cold weather and wind.

Devery Henderson Will Lead the Team in Yardage

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Devery Henderson #19 of the New Orleans Saints runs with the ball after a catch on his way to scoring a touchdown in the third period against the Detroit Lions during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Su
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 49ers are great at taking away a team's top threats.

Henderson has the ability to sneak by defenders and haul in some gigantic gains. He had 64 yards on only two catches, including one for 41 yards, on Saturday against the Lions.

With the 49ers’ secondary neutralizing Marques Colston and Robert Meachem, Brees will be using his third and fourth reads more often than normal.

Expect him to be a major factor on Saturday with at least eight balls thrown in his direction. If two of those are for a big gain…Henderson will have well over 100 yards.

Jimmy Graham Will Be Shut out

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints lunges towards the goal line on his way to scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against Amari Spievey #42 of the Detroit Lions during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Me
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Graham has been one of the best tight ends this season but now he has to face Patrick Willis, quite possibly the best linebacker in the game.

Willis will be shadowing Graham all game long, cutting off the middle of the field and jamming him on the line. Graham can be neutralized by getting physical with him.

Saints Will Score Four Second-Half TDs

The Saints offense was asleep until the third quarter against the Lions, but I think the 49ers defense will be good enough to bottle them up for another full quarter.

Yet once the fourth quarter hits and the desperation and urgency of an aging Saints team sets in, the offense will be flipped into overdrive. Facing a double-digit lead, it will be a comeback for the ages.

Prediction: Saints 35, 49ers 24

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