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San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints: Preview and Pick
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints: Preview and Pick
The San Francisco 49ers do not look like the same team that went to the Super Bowl a season ago. Instead they look like a team that still has plenty of problems on offense. They now hit the road to go against the New Orleans Saints who have no problem moving the ball on offense as Drew Brees and company are putting up some big numbers this season. If the 49ers want to prove that they are still a good team, then a win against the Saints will go a long way.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Odds
The opening NFL point spread for this game has the Saints listed as (-3) point favorites. This line will most likely move in the favor of the Saints. The 49ers bad game and the Saints good game are putting all of the betting action squarely in favor of the home team. The latest sports betting consensus site shows that over 90 percent of the betting action is on the Saints for this game. Check your favorite top rated sportsbook for the latest point spread in this game.
The 49ers are having problems in the passing game. Colin Kaepernick was 0-for-6 on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield, including a game-ending interception. It is the first time in his career Kaepernick hasn't completed a deep pass with multiple attempts. The Panthers' defense is now tied with the Patriots for the most interceptions on deep passes (nine). The Saints defense is much better and if they can shut down the run, they can win this game, but the 49ers will not make it easy. This could be the best game of the week.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveal some interesting wagering angles for this game. The total has gone over in 12 of San Francisco's last 16 games, but the total has gone under in 12 of San Francisco's last 17 games when playing on the road against New Orleans. San Francisco is 5-1 straight up in its last 6 games overall and 4-1 straight up in its last 5 games on the road. San Francisco is 2-6 straight up in its last 8 games when playing New Orleans and 5-10 against the spread (ATS) in its last 15 games when playing New Orleans. New Orleans is 7-2 straight up in its last 9 games and 5-0 straight up in its last 5 games at home.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Pick
The Vikings are a good team, but they are no match for the Seattle Seahawks in this big game who are one of the best home teams in the league.
Following their 49-17 triumph over the Dallas Cowboys, the New Orleans Saints have just enough time to come up for a quick breath of air before they take the field again for a crucial contest with the San Francisco 49ers.
This matchup of NFC contenders is the biggest game of the season for the Saints thus far, and it could very well make or break their Super Bowl hopes. Yes, it’s that important.
On Sunday night against Dallas, New Orleans was dominant in all facets and made a statement to the rest of the NFL. The NFC South-leading Saints passed for 392 yards and limited an explosive Dallas offense to less than 200 total yards. In addition, the Saints unearthed their long-dormant ground game with 242 yards rushing.
The shellacking was a complete performance in which New Orleans displayed all the characteristics of a championship-contending team. It’s becoming increasingly apparent, however, that in order to attain their ultimate goal of reaching the Super Bowl, the Saints need home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
If the playoffs started today, the 7-2 Saints would receive the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC. The only playoff game that could then force New Orleans to leave the Superdome would be the NFC Championship Game.
At 9-1, the Seattle Seahawks represent the Saints’ chief obstacle to obtaining that highly coveted No. 1 slot. Playing at Seattle in the NFC title game would present a truly daunting challenge for the Saints, who are not exactly known as road warriors.
The Saints enjoy a tremendous home-field advantage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The difficulties involved with overcoming the Seahawks on their home field are well known throughout the league. On the flip side, the same can be said for New Orleans. If either squad claims the NFC's top seed, thus garnering home-field advantage, the going will be extremely tough to keep that team out of the Super Bowl.
That's why this Sunday's contest with the 49ers is an absolute must-win for the Saints. With Seattle hitting on all cylinders, New Orleans must keep pace and stay within striking distance.
It must also be noted that the playoffs are still a long way off. The Saints must successfully navigate their remaining schedule just to preserve the status quo. And that schedule is a quagmire of potential pitfalls and booby traps.
Just three days after this week's clash with San Francisco (6-3), New Orleans will travel to face bitter rival Atlanta in a Thursday night game. The Falcons’ season has been a huge disappointment to say the least, and they would relish the opportunity to play the spoiler role against the Saints. Following the trip to Atlanta, Saints coach Sean Payton will take his team to Seattle's CenturyLink Field for a Monday night mega-matchup with the Seahawks.
And if the aforementioned contests aren't challenging enough, New Orleans must also fight off the surging Carolina Panthers, who are only one game behind in the NFC South. Following the Seattle game, the Saints face Carolina (6-3) twice in a three-week span. Taking just one game from the Panthers, who just shut down the 49er offense on Sunday, will be difficult. Taking two from them in three weeks is unlikely.
For New Orleans, this makes the remaining schedule nothing short of Murderers' Row.
Consequently, the Saints are not afforded the opportunity to bask in the glow of their magnificent performance against the Cowboys.
Just one week removed from making an emphatic statement to the rest of the league, the New Orleans Saints must buckle their chin straps back up, answer the 49ers' call and protect their home field. Their Super Bowl hopes depend on it.
The San Francisco 49ers have released wide receiver and return man Kyle Williams. Williams' agent, Wynn Silberman, says the move has been made by the reigning NFC champions, though the 49ers had yet to formally announce Williams' departure.
San Francisco (6-3) is looking for more production in the passing game, and Williams had fallen on the depth chart with the return of Mario Manningham for Sunday's 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. In addition, 2012 leading wideout Michael Crabtree resumed practice last week for the first time since undergoing surgery in May for a torn right Achilles' tendon.
The 25-year-old Williams has 12 catches for 113 yards and no touchdowns.
There is no getting around the fact that the 49ers loss to the Carolina Panthers was a serious blow to a team that was hoping to grab home field advantage through the playoffs. While there is still plenty of time to catch the respective division’s leaders, the chances of that are slim to none at this point. While the teams they are chasing can of course slip up down the stretch, at this point, the 49ers need to focus on themselves and breathing life into their passing game.
San Francisco has been the last-ranked passing team for most of the season, but even after a 46 total passing yard performance this past week, things are looking up. The light at the end of the tunnel is clearly in sight.
- What Was Expected?
The 10-9 loss to the Panthers was due to San Francisco’s inability to pass the ball. While some analysts are up in arms about the team’s weak link, these critics are unable to see the bigger picture. There is no denying that this past Sunday, the passing game was flat-out pathetic, but what was expected? It’s asking a lot to have a prolific passing day against an outstanding Panther defense, from a team that has struggled all year to throw the ball, and was thrown two curveballs in the first half. Not only did San Francisco lose their best receiving threat, Vernon Davis, but they also lost Davis’ replacement, Garrett Celek as well. While this hurt the passing game, it also hurt the running game, eliminating the ability to use the multiple tight end formations. The 49ers might have been able to hold onto their game plan after losing one tight end, but not after two.
- Plan B and C Already in Place
So why doesn’t San Francisco have another viable receiving threat if something happens to Davis? Well, in fact, San Francisco does, they just weren’t quite ready for this game. This past Sunday was the 2013 debut of Mario Manningham who dropped a few passes, was rusty, but showed that once he gets his game legs under him, he will be a reliable possession receiver. There is also the much-anticipated return of Michael Crabtree in a few weeks that will finally give the 49ers their Pro Bowl receiver, and make Anquan Boldin a more consistent threat as well.
When everyone is healthy and has a chance to get into a rhythm, the passing game will be just fine, but until then, San Francisco is one injury away from another terrible day throwing the ball.
- No Reason To Jump Ship
Those losing faith in the 49ers are foolish. They were still one lucky bounce away from beating a very talented Carolina team, and the team’s only weakness is their passing game, which should have an asterisk next to it. San Francisco has a quarterback starting in just his first year, and has not played a single game with even close to his full complement of weapons. The San Francisco defense has to be playing as well as any unit in the league, and once Manningham and Crabtree are ready to go, the problems with the passing game will disappear. Think about it, Colin Kaepernick was supposed to have success against the best front seven in football after preparing all week to play with Vernon Davis, and having Mario Manningham seeing his first action of the season? Give the team and Kaepernick a break.
The last time the San Francisco 49ers took the field at the Superdome, they made a gutsy second-half comeback before falling short in the Super Bowl.
Based on New Orleans' home dominance, the challenge for the 49ers to come out ahead could be even tougher when they return to the Big Easy on Sunday to face the Saints.
San Francisco (6-3) appeared to be on the wrong side of a blowout when it trailed Baltimore 28-6 early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII. However, the 49ers overcame a power outage inside the Superdome and rallied to get within two points in the fourth before losing 34-31.
Though a return to New Orleans should certainly bring back memories for those 49ers who lived it, the team's collective focus is on trying to bounce back from a frustrating 10-9 home loss to Carolina last Sunday. That likely won't be easy against a New Orleans team that owns a 176-75 scoring advantage at home, where it improved to 5-0 after a 49-17 rout of Dallas last Sunday night.
"We've got a tough game coming up, and we're not going to wallow in (the loss to Carolina)," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We're going to move on to New Orleans."
A week after suffering their second loss in three games, 26-20 to the New York Jets, the Saints (7-2) recorded an NFL-record 40 first downs and regular season team-record 625 yards against the Cowboys.
"You don't play many games like that, and every once in a while you find yourself on the good end and sometimes you find yourself once in a while on the bad end," New Orleans coach Sean Payton. "You hope when your career is done you have more experiences on the good end."
Drew Brees was 34 of 41 for 392 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, a running game that came in averaging 79.8 yards gained 242 - the franchise's highest total since 1990 - behind a career-best 145 on 14 carries from underachieving third-year pro Mark Ingram.
"It's important for us to have that balance," Payton said.
Brees has completed 74.4 percent of his passes and averaged 367.2 passing yards while throwing 18 TDs and two INTs - including none in the last three games - at home this season.
New Orleans averages 463.6 yards and 35.2 points at home, but it could have trouble reaching those marks Sunday.
The 49ers are fourth in the league allowing 17.2 points per contest and have yielded an average of 11.8 in six games since giving up 28.0 per contest over the first three.
San Francisco's biggest issue, however, is trying to get its offense back on track against a Saints team that's right behind the 49ers allowing an average of 18.1 points. The 49ers averaged 34.8 points and 357.6 yards during a five-game winning streak that ended when they totaled 151 against the Panthers.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 91 yards with an interception and was sacked a season-high six times.
"The way we look at it is as a unit. Offensively, we didn't play well enough to win the game," Harbaugh said. "Across the board, we take accountability for that and have fingerprints on it. I'm not going to go through and dissect position by position, raking anybody over the coals. I don't think that's the best thing for us."
Harbaugh added: "I think their mindset will be what it's always been, it's a blue-collar mindset. That involves fixing things, building things, sutures in our hands and the weapons are in our hands, our fate is in our hands."
Frank Gore was perhaps San Francisco's lone offensive bright spot while running 16 times for 82 yards, but he failed to reach the end zone after scoring four times in the previous two contests. Sixth in the NFL with 700 yards, Gore has averaged 91.5 and 5.4 per carry in his last four games against the Saints, including one from the playoffs.
Mario Manningham had three catches for 30 yards in his first action since injuring his knee Dec. 23.
The 49ers hope tight end Vernon Davis can play after he and rookie safety Eric Reid each suffered a concussion last Sunday. It's also uncertain if receiver Michael Crabtree will make his season debut after suffering an Achilles injury in May.
Crabtree set career highs last season with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns and the release of wide receiver and return man Kyle Williams may have opened the door for his return.
San Francisco has won two straight over New Orleans, including 36-32 in a divisional playoff game Jan. 14, 2012 that snapped the Saints' six-game series winning streak.
In the 49ers' 31-21 win at New Orleans on Nov. 25, Kaepernick threw for 231 yards with a touchdown, an interception and ran for a score. Brees threw three TDs, but his two interceptions were both returned for touchdowns.
The San Francisco 49ers found themselves on the losing end of a defensive battle with one NFC South resident last weekend, but this Sunday's road contest against the division-leading New Orleans Saints seems to be trending more toward a shootout.
The Saints, coming off a record-setting offensive performance, try to deal the 49ers a second straight loss as the two clubs battle at the Superdome.
New Orleans put up 625 yards of offense in last Sunday night's 49-17 rout of the Dallas Cowboys, giving the club a split of its past four games following a 5-0 start. Drew Brees threw for nearly 400 yards with four touchdowns and the Saints' ground game totaled over 200 yards.
Brees completed 34-of-41 pass attempts, including 19 straight at one point and was sacked just one time. Wide receiver Marques Colston and running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles each caught seven passes with a receiving touchdown, while wideout Kenny Stills made a 52-yard scoring catch.
"Today was an extremely efficient day on offense ... both in the pass and the run," Brees said. "I know a quarterback should mention the offensive line at every press conference but for real ... these guys were phenomenal."
New Orleans bounced back from a six-point loss to the New York Jets and at 7-2 remained a game ahead of the Carolina Panthers, who deal the Niners a setback last weekend, for first place in the NFC South.
Mark Ingram, Thomas and Sproles all ran for a score as well, with Ingram notching his first career 100-yard rushing game. He totaled 145 yards on 14 carries, while Thomas added 87 yards rushing to his 24 yards receiving.
New Orleans improved to 5-0 at home this season thanks in part to 242 rushing yards, the highest for the club since it posted 249 on Nov. 4, 1990 at Cincinnati.
"We have put a lot of emphasis on the run game. We just wanted to come out here on a national stage and prove to everybody that we could play smash mouth football and run the ball," noted Ingram. "All the running backs worked really hard this week in practice. The line did a great job. It's all on them. It makes our job easy when they dominate the line like that."
The 49ers went into their home meeting with the Panthers having scored at least 31 points in each contest of their five-game winning streak, but that run was snapped in a big way with a 10-9 setback to Carolina.
The two teams combined for 401 total yards and went just 9-for-30 on third down attempts, with the 49ers a paltry 2-for-13. There was also a total of 10 sacks in the game, six for Carolina, and each team had two turnovers.
"We had our chances and opportunities in the game and we just didn't get it done," said San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh. "We played with great effort, especially the defense. But Carolina made more plays and in the end that won it for them."
Frank Gore carried the ball 16 times for 82 yards and added two catches for 21 yards, while quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for just 91 yards on 11- of-22 passing. He was also picked off once.
San Francisco fell to 6-3 on the season, trailing 9-1 Seattle for the top spot in the NFC West.
"It's unacceptable. We have a number of weapons on offense. We just have to do a better job of making it happen," said wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The 49ers lost a big weapon early in the game when tight end Vernon Davis suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Fellow tight end Garrett Celek (hamstring) also suffered an injury, as did defensive tackle Ray McDonald (ankle) and rookie safety Eric Reid (concussion).
The Niners will try to rebound on the road, where they won three times during their recent win streak and haven't lost since a 29-3 defeat at Seattle back in Week 2.
The 49ers had lost six straight regular-season games versus the Saints before a 31-21 victory in New Orleans in November of last year. It was their first road win in this series since Jan. 6, 2002.
Of course, San Francisco's last trip to the Superdome came on Feb. 3 in its Super Bowl XLVII loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
"I don't think there will be any emotions because it's a whole other game," said Davis. "The situation is different. We're not playing in the Super Bowl, we're playing for a spot in the playoffs right now at the moment."
Kaepernick has had his ups and downs this season, throwing just nine touchdown passes to six interceptions with a passer rating of 83.0 in nine games. Through 13 games and seven starts last season, he had 10 touchdown throws to three picks with a 98.3 rating.
Not having Davis would be a big blow as he has caught seven of Kaepernick's TD passes this season. His 30 catches and 520 yards also rank second on the club behind only Boldin's 41 grabs and 574 yards.
"Vernon changes defenses. He makes them adjust differently. He makes them do things that they don't normally do. He's a big loss," Kaepernick said after Sunday's game.
The good news is that both Davis and Reid, who was born in Baton Rouge and starred at LSU, did not have symptoms on Wednesday according to Harbaugh and were cleared to practice without contact.
Both would still have to pass NFL-mandated tests at the end of the week to be eligible to play on Sunday.
San Francisco's defense, which ranks fourth in scoring (17.2 points per game) and sixth in total defense (316.8 yards per game), will have linebacker Aldon Smith back in the lineup for a second straight game and he could see a bigger role in trying to shut down Brees.
Smith left the team after Week 3 to undergo substance-abuse treatment and did not start versus the Panthers. He has 4 1/2 sacks on the season and said he was aware he would not play a lot last weekend, but his presence was enough to spark fellow linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Brooks matched a career high with three sacks versus Carolina, giving him a team-high 5 1/2 on the season.
"He's motivation for me to do a good job. He's probably the best pass rusher in the NFL, to be honest with you," said Brooks of Smith. "You got to accept it, that's just how it is. He makes me a better player. I get a chance to watch what he does in practice, I get a chance to watch what he does in the game and just try to implement that in my game as much as possible."
That's high praise given that Brooks has five more years of experience than Smith.
Brooks had a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown last season versus the Saints, one of two picks Brees threw in that game. San Francisco also logged five sacks in the win, with Brooks, Smith and defensive tackle Justin Smith all getting credited with 1 1/2 sacks each.
Brees, though, is coming off his 23rd career four-touchdown game, tying him with Brett Favre for the second most in NFL history. Only Peyton Manning has more with 26.
Colston, meanwhile, returned from a one-game absence due to injury with his best performance of the season. He set season highs in catches and yards (107) while scoring his first TD since Week 1.
Colston hauled in the 60th touchdown catch of his career, all from Brees, and his 7,843 career receiving yards are 12 shy of passing Eric Martin for the most in franchise history.
The Saints rank second in scoring (29.4 PPG) and total offense (422.7 YPG), doing the bulk of their damage through the air. They are averaging just 97.8 rushing yards per game, but their offense would become even more dangerous if they can maintain the balance from last Sunday.
"It's important for us to have that balance, certainly for the team time of possession and all these things sway in a game like that in your favor," said Saints head coach Sean Payton.
The Saints rank 24th in the league versus the rush and go up against a 49ers ground attack that is fourth with 147.7 YPG.