49ers beat the Saints in Week 12 if they run the ball well

Vance McDonald #89 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Vance McDonald #89 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

15. Sunday, Nov. 27. 4:25 p.m. ET. 4-7. Fox. 6-4. 42. 49ers -9

The 49ers have a pretty clear-cut advantage over the Saints in Week 12, and running the ball should all but give Kyle Shanahan another victory.

It’s time to break out another football cliche.

Generally speaking, teams that run the football well on game day typically wind up being in a great position to win games, even in today’s pass-happy NFL.

Another cliche, when the San Francisco 49ers are effective at running the ball, they generally win games, too, even when opponents offer up some resistance to the ground attack as the Niners faced in their previous two wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals in Weeks 10 and 11, respectively.

The Chargers are bad at defending against the run, whereas the Cardinals are good at it. Head coach Kyle Shanahan figured out ways to be effective with the rushing attack in both games.

Now, with San Francisco’s Week 12 opponent in the New Orleans Saints, Shanahan will be looking at a defense that emulates Los Angeles’ situation in that the Saints aren’t particularly great when it comes to run defense.

Saints don’t have a good run defense, that helps 49ers

Looking at the yearlong numbers, or even the splits in recent weeks, New Orleans has struggled against the run.

Overall, the Saints are giving up an average of 4.6 yards per rush play, which ranks 23rd in the NFL heading into Week 12, and their defense has given up at least 130 rush yards in four of their last five games.

Going back to New Orleans’ last three contests, take a look at the rush yards allowed per opponent:

  • Week 9 vs. Baltimore Ravens: 188 yards
  • Week 10 @ Pittsburgh Steelers: 217 yards
  • Week 11 vs. Los Angeles Rams: 148 yards

The analytics also support the conclusion about the Saints being bad against the run, as Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric has them ranked 20th in the NFL against the run.

Juicy opportunity, right?

49ers RBs Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell should thrive vs. Saints

Shanahan finally has the one-two punch he’s been looking for seemingly for years, boasting a now-healthy Elijah Mitchell in support of the All-Pro, Christian McCaffrey, who’ll be the featured threat.

What’ll likely be New Orleans’ approach is to stack the box against the 49ers, not unlike how the Chargers did so two weeks ago. However, getting McCaffrey out into space with both outside runs and the occasional screen play can shake that up.

Provided the Niners get into more preferable second- and third-down situations, stacking the box won’t quite be as effective.

Read More: 49ers vs. Saints: Betting odds, prediction for Week 12 game

McCaffrey might have another 100-yard game, both on the ground and through the air, as he did in Week 11 against Arizona. But Mitchell, using his speed and potentially staying in reserve until the second half, might have the better statistical numbers on the ground.

Especially if he’s the one called upon to take advantage of the Saints defense after halftime at a point when it’s been worn down by a run-heavy attack.

If that plays out, one should probably expect San Francisco to command the game on the ground and to pull off yet another victory when these two teams square off on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 4:25 p.m. ET from Levi’s Stadium.

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