NFL Game of the Week: 49ers vs. Saints
The calendar has officially turned to December, which means it is the most fun and exciting time of the year in the NFL. Battles for playoff positioning are taking place every week, and this week we get another matchup of heavyweights in the NFC: the San Francisco 49ers visiting the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at 1 p.m.
These 10-2 teams are locked in a three-way tie for the top seed in the NFC with the Seattle Seahawks, making this game a pivotal decider in who gets home field advantage in the postseason.
The Niners have been a frequent star of CommRadio’s NFL Game of the Week articles, having been featured in both of the last two weeks. San Francisco is 1-1 in those games, destroying the Packers and losing on a Justin Tucker game-winning field goal this past sunday.
The Niners are one of the most well-balanced teams in the league this year, boasting the second-best ground game in the sport and a top-six offense in total yardage, combined with an elite defense leading the league in total yards allowed. New Orleans also boasts a strong defense that sacked Matt Ryan a whopping nine times on Thanksgiving night, and an offense that is starting to become potent once again now that Drew Brees is back in the swing of things after recovering from his hand injury.
The main challenge for New Orleans offensively is finding consistent production outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the passing game. Ted Ginn Jr. and Deonte Harris haven’t gone untracked for much of the season, leaving the superstar Thomas to carry the load. He’s largely lived up to the task, catching 83.3 percent of his targets in 12 games where he’s totaled 1,290 receiving yards and six touchdowns, motoring the Saints offense forward.
Against a top-flight defense like San Francisco, it’s a tough ask for Thomas to make all the plays. The Niners only allow a league-best 134.2 yards per game through the air behind the excellence of veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, making them a perfect obstacle for the Saints offense. Fully expect them to try to take away Thomas and force New Orleans to rely on other weapons to step up.
New Orlean’s key to winning the game is to make the Niner’s offense one-dimensional. San Francisco is powered by one of the league’s best rushing attacks, one that features multiple backs, notably Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been asked to single-handedly win games for his team much this season, but with 10 interceptions on the year, Jimmy G has shown a tendency to be careless with the ball. If the Saints can force the Niners to chuck the rock around all afternoon, they might be able to incur some killer mistakes from Garoppolo that can give New Orleans the edge it needs to stay with Seattle in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The Saints are favored by 2.5 points, just a shade under the standard home point share, but the 49ers have played very good all-around football this year, and the Saints haven’t appeared to be quite as dominant in 2019. San Francisco pulls off the minor upset in a superb NFC tilt.
Prediction: San Francisco 26, New Orleans 24
Jeremy Ganes is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.