2. The linebackers must play at their absolute best
If the New Orleans Saints do not get a good showing out of their linebackers in this game then it is going to be a long day for the Saints’ defense.
The Saints’ defense has been one of the surprising defenses in the league and while Brees was out it was even making the case to be one of the best in the league. Since then, the cracks have started to show in the defense, although it is certainly still above league-average.
If Marshon Lattimore returns to this game then the Saints should have no worries in the secondary. Even without Lattimore, it will be manageable as the 49ers do not have an elite wideout.
However, the area where the Saints really need to focus on and gameplan for is the linebackers. The play of the linebackers will dictate the entire day not only for the defense but for the team as well.
The 49ers are a team that succeeds off the run. As good as Jimmy Garoppolo is, he does benefit from having a good running game, which opens up the play-action game and a myriad of other things for him.
The Saints actually allow the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game because of their linebacker core and the ability to keep two-yard runs from turning into five-yard runs.
Not only are they important in stopping the run but the linebackers are going to have to step up in order to contain George Kittle. While there will be instances in which Kittle is lined up on a corner, there will also be instances where Kittle is lined up on a backer and those are the situations where the 49ers are going to be looking for a big play.
The Saints rank 11th in most receptions allowed to tight ends, 16th in receiving yards and tied for 18th in touchdowns allowed.