The New Orleans Saints are heading into the team’s most important game of the season and couldn’t have worse matchups because of injuries.
The New Orleans Saints have overcome a lot this season. The team overcame injuries to Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook and Marshon Lattimore. And through it all, the Saints have kept marching and head into Week 14 with a joint-best 10-2 record.
The Saints take on one of three teams that have a 10-2 record in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers actually enter this game as the fifth-seed in the NFC because of the Seahawks’ tiebreaker over them but are dangerous and could very well end up as the top seed in the NFC.
This game is going to go a long way in deciding that. With a win, the Saints would take full control of the driver’s seat with the tiebreaker advantage over both the 49ers and the Seahawks. With a loss, the Saints not only will have an uphill climb for home-field advantage but will have to fight to maintain the team’s first-round bye.
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The worst part about this game is that the Saints have to overcome even more. The team is yet again dealing with some significant injuries that match up absolutely terribly against the San Francisco 49ers.
Offensively, the 49ers make their money by being a run-first team that also relies on George Kittle. Jimmy Garoppolo is a good quarterback that can make a few mistakes and the receiving corps is not that great outside of Emmanuel Sanders.
Thus, the team relies on athleticism in the backfield to run the ball, open up the play-action and get the ball to George Kittle. To stop that, a team needs solid linebackers that can plug the running lanes and not allow many yards after contact. Linebackers are also essentially in that they are usually manned up or have zone coverage on Kittle.
The New Orleans Saints have Demario Davis, which is going to be a huge help, but do not have much after that. Both A.J. Klein and Kiko Alonso will not play in this contest and Alex Anzalone has been out almost all season.
Sure, the team brought in a familiar name in Manti T’eo but I do not care how you spin it — Teo has not played an NFL down since last December and even when he was on the Saints he was average at his best.
Defensively, the 49ers make their money by pressuring the quarterback and playing stout defense on third down. The team ranks second in both sacks per game and third-down conversion percentage.
The Saints are banged up on the offensive line. Andrus Peat has been out for several weeks and left tackle Terron Armstead is questionable after missing last week. Sure, this left side of the Saints’ line held up for the most part last week, but the 49ers have been a team to attack any weakness that an offense has.
We all know that Drew Brees is not the same quarterback when he is pressure, especially in his older age. If the 49ers defense gives the same performance that they have given in almost every game then the Saints are going to have their hands full.
Ultimately, the Saints are going to need to protect the ball, drain the clock and utilize the Superdome in their favor. If not, this is a game that could get ugly.