Defensive line: Advantage, San Francisco 49ers
Cameron Jordan had four sacks on Thanksgiving and entered himself into the Defensive Player of the Year race as a result. However, even that performance and Jordan’s great season is not enough to overcome this 49ers’ defensive line.
The 49ers’ defensive line is the heart and soul of this team and it is the reason why the 49ers’ defense has been so good this season. The 49ers rank second in sacks per game, the Saints rank fourth, and are especially lethal on third downs.
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Linebackers: Advantage, San Francisco 49ers
I would have given the advantage to the Saints but they are so banged up at linebacker, so much so that the team signed Manti T’eo, that I cannot give it to the Saints.
It appears more likely that both Kiko Alonso and AJ Klein are going to miss this Sunday’s game, giving the Saints’ a huge hole and an area for the 49ers to target.
Cornerbacks: Advantage, New Orleans Saints
Richard Sherman is also questionable for this game but he was participating at practice on Wednesday so everything appears fine for the veteran corner.
Even with Sherman likely playing, the advantage still has to go to the Saints because of Marshon Lattimore, who has really stepped up this season. It does get a little thin after Lattimore but the 49ers’ cornerbacks aren’t great either.
Safeties: Advantage, New Orleans Saints
Again, the 49ers have solid safeties and this is not an area of weakness for them whatsoever but the Saints are simply better. Vonn Bell does enough and Marcus Williams has enjoyed the best season of his young career.
It will be the secondary that is forced to make a difference in this game with the linebacker core so banged up. If the secondary cannot force some turnovers against Jimmy G then this could be a bad game for the Saints.