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
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
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
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