It’s almost game time! The San Francisco 49ers are ready and fired up to take on the New Orleans Saints in Candlestick Park. The match up has been anticipated by Niner fans all week long. For some reason the game has not been getting the media attention as the other games this weekend. I understand that “Tebow Time” has been sweeping the nation and that the Green Bay Packers might have their hands full against the New York Giants, but I believe that this will be the game of the week. The game throughout the duration will be closely contested and it will come down to whoever has the final possession. The Niners defense has had two weeks to prepare for the Saints; for those that do not know, coach Jim Harbaugh stated during the first round bye that the coaching staff was preparing for the Saints. Both the offense and defense should be more than ready and it will come down to execution on Saturday. Here are the key matchups for the game.
Saints Vs the grass
Plenty has been said about the Saints playing away from home. The offense tends to dominate more when they are playing on the Silver Dome on the turf. The statistics due prove that even when the Saints have played other dome teams, they have struggled. For example, when they played the Falcons in the Georgia Dome the game came down to an overtime victory. And who could forget possibly the biggest upset of the year when they lost to the Rams in St. Louis (another dome team).
The road has been a difficult place for the Saints to win, whether its grass or turf. They lost against a bad Buccaneers team in Tampa Bay and were given all they can handle recently versus the Titans in Tennessee (which I believe the Saints lead at halftime 7-3). This time of year the conditions in Candlestick are awful. Playing away from New Orleans and having to play in a soggy wet field in opposition to arguably the best defense in the NFL, means not good for the Saints! It’s a big advantage for the Niners.
49ers defensive line Vs Saints offense line
The Saints have a terrific offensive line. Three of their O-line men have been selected to this year’s pro bowl. Not only is the O-line great, but QB Drew Brees moves fabulously in the pocket. He knows exactly when to step to the right, or to the left, and when to move in the pocket. It is a thing of beauty.
The defensive line will have to play out of their minds if they want to pressure Brees. It is no secret that the Niners will primarily rush four to the quarterback. It will be up to pro bowl DE Justin Smith and possible defensive rookie of the year LB Aldon Smith to rack up the sacks and consistently put hits on Brees. If the Niners can indeed pressure Drew Brees with only four, then it means there will more players in coverage giving the Niners a better chance to force an interception and most importantly stop the Saints remarkable passing attack.
LB Patrick Willis Vs TE Jimmy Graham
Throughout the season the favorite target for Drew Brees has been Jimmy Graham. He has had a breakout season with 99 receptions, 1,310 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns. The thing that makes him so difficult to guard is his athleticism and his size, he is 6’6’’ and 260lb! Graham is more than a handful for anyone who has to cover him, whether it is a cornerback, safety, or linebacker. Who will have the daunting task of covering Graham on the Niner defense?
My money is on none other but our franchise player, Mr. Patrick Willis. Willis has had more than enough time to recover from his hamstring injury and he will need every ounce of energy to cover Graham. Undoubtedly it will be the most skilled player that Patrick has faced all season. It will be pro bowler versus pro bowler in this match up. If Patrick does a great job containing Graham in the game it will mean one less weapon for Brees to rely on and with WR Lance Moore questionable for the game, the chances of the Niners stopping the Saints offense increases. I have a bunch of confidence in Patrick; he has done a great job in coverage this entire season.
Those are just a few of the matchup to look out for in the game. There are still many that can be presented, such as, LB NaVorro Bowman vs. RB Darren Sproles, QB Alex Smith vs. the Saints blitz, and 49ers running attack vs. the Saints front seven. The game is so intriguing! Let’s do it already! My prediction is a close win by the Niners 27-24. I truly believe that the magic number is 24. If the Niners keep the Saints at 24 or under, we can win the game. GO NINERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!