by Steve Geller, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Nov 15 2013 8:03AM
The first thing that pops into my head when I hear Saints vs. 49ers is the NFC Divisional playoff game back in 2012. The Saints lost in the final seconds. Alex Smith drove San Fran, a la John Elway, down the field capping it off with a TD strike to Vernon Davis to end the game and the Black & Gold's march towards another Super Bowl ring. Where is the "Men In Black" mind-eraser when you need it, right?
The Saints have dropped the last two contests against the Niners, and the players are saying that payback isn't on their minds. The Who Dat Nation, on the other hand, still hasn't forgotten about Donte Whitner's hit on Pierre Thomas that knocked him unconscious early in that playoff fiasco.
My initial gut feeling was that the Saints would win 27-26 over the Niners. Frank Gore and the San Fran rushing attack definitely scares me along with their defense that is hard hitting and has a knack for creating turnovers. A big stat from Las Vegas, though, has me changing my initial forecast.
The line is Saints by 3.
Did you know that the Saints have covered 14 straight games at home under Coach Sean Payton? That is more than just an anomaly and too hard to ignore.
Now I say the final will be:
Saints 26 - 49ers 20
Here are the players I'll be keying in on in Sunday's big NFC battle royal:
DE Cam Jordan
While he was dominating to start the season, Jordan's been awfully quiet for the last few weeks. Playing with an ankle injury is likely the reason for the drop off in his performance, but the Saints really, REALLY need his presence in this game.
The Panthers beat the 49ers in a good ole fashioned knockdown, drag out, scrum on the gridiron. That's exactly what the Saints have to do as well. Jordan has really come alive as a pass rusher this season, but it's his solid run defense that will really be needed to help stop a San Fran rushing attack that averages 148 yards per game and is ranked 4th in the NFL.
RB Mark Ingram
Marky Mark had a break out game against the Cowboys last week, and now it's time to see if he's really turned the corner going up against a fearsome 49ers defense. Obviously the offensive line's play was a big factor in last week's game. They pushed the Dallas d-line around, but you got to give Ingram a lot of credit. He ran with a lot of emotion and forced several tacklers to miss.
Surprisingly San Fran is giving up 105 rushing yards per game to opponents, so it's really not impossible for Ingram to put together another solid outing. The key to me will be getting him the carries, so he is able to get into some kind of rhythm. We'll see if Payton stays committed to the run, even if they aren't having success early.
RB Frank Gore
Anyone who thought Gore was washed up better hush their mouth. This 30-year-old running back remains among the elite in the league and just won't run around you, he'll barrel you over. He is well on his way to his 7th 1,000 yard season. Gore has racked up 700 yards already this season.
Gore is also a viable option to catch the ball out the backfield and is really underrated as a pass blocker. He just might be the best back in the NFL at picking up the blitz. This guy is the heart and soul of the 49ers offense, and what he is capable of versus the Saints is downright scary. New Orleans is giving up 118 yards a game and 5 yards a carry to the opposition.
TE Vernon Davis
Without Davis, the 49ers' passing game is non-existent. No really! Davis has caught 78% percent of Colin Kaepernick's touchdown passes this season, which is the highest percentage by one player in the NFL.
The tight end suffered a concussion last week but has been practicing, and you can bet he'll be suited up for Sunday. The Saints need to focus on neutralizing him to make the Frisco offense one dimensional.