Preview and Predictions: 49ers vs. Saints
Friday, January 13, 2012 4 Comments
The time has come. The NFL playoffs are in full swing, and the 49ers are finally back in the mix. After a pathetic eight years without a playoff appearance, the red and gold have claimed the number 2 seed with a 13-3 record. That’s quite an improvement from last season’s record, which was a sad 6-10. The team’s turn-around can be attributed to one thing: a new coaching staff. Namely, head coach Jim Harbaugh. He’s definitely the right man for the job. The Niners needed an offensively-minded coach, and Harbaugh, being a former NFL quarterback and former Stanford head coach, was a no-brainer. The team also brought over a few other coaches from Stanford, and it has translated into many, many wins. The talent was there all along, it just wasn’t being utilized correctly. They now have the number one ranked defense in the NFL, and an offense that plays well enough to win every game. And that’s why they’re going to beat the Saints.
Yes, my prediction might be biased. I’ve been a maniacal fan of the 49ers since birth, and we at Wrecked have never had a “fair and balanced” philosophy about our articles (especially when it comes to our sports teams). So shut up and learn why the Niners are going to stun the nation on Saturday.
There’s no denying, the Saints have the hottest offense in football. Drew Brees is seriously one of the best, if not the best quarterback in the NFL. They lead in virtually every offensive category, and that circus act of a team scores an average of 34.2 points per game. At first glance, you’d think it would be done deal that the boys from Nawlins will win. However there are some stats that people forget to mention. The Saints, as great of a team as they are, have some flaws. On the road, they have a 5-3 record, and only scored an average of 27 points in said road games. They’re going to be a long way from dome this time (see what I did there?), facing a 49ers defense that only gives up 14.3 points per game. Additionally, they have a pretty mediocre defense, ranking 12th. They don’t have a pure pass rusher, so the Niners’ offensive line shouldn’t have a problem protecting Alex Smith. A great offense and an okay defense aren’t enough to win.
On the other hand, the 49ers have the best defense in the league. They give up the fewest rushing yards per game, fewest points per game, and have the highest turnover differential. And they have the best linebacker in the league, Patrick Willis. The stout run defense is going to force the Saints to do what they do best: throw the ball. Here’s where things will get interesting. The Niners’ secondary isn’t as sexy as their front seven, but they can still make big plays. They’re ranked second in the NFL in interceptions. And with Drew Brees passing on virtually every play, this will come in handy. Also, the Niners’ pass rush is flat out scary, with The Big Cowboy Justin Smith and the rookie phenom Aldon Smith averaging 2.6 sacks per game. Combine that with a few blitzes from Patrick Willis and crew, and poor old Drew won’t even know what hit him. Well, he’ll know, but you get my point.
As much as I’d love to keep talking about the 49ers’ stellar defense, it’s time to talk about the other side of the football. When you compare the two teams, it’s painfully obvious that New Orleans has the better offense. That doesn’t mean San Francisco has a bad offense, not by a long shot. Sure they only score 24 points per game, and they only average 311 yards per game, but they have something that no team has been able to contain. His name is Frank Gore, and with the Saints lacking a good run defense, The Inconvenient Truth is going to have one hell of a game. And Gore isn’t the Niners’ only offensive weapon. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis have the ability to stretch the field in the same way that the Saints’ Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham do. And Alex Smith only has five interceptions on the season, so he’s accurate enough to make some deep tosses to his array of receivers.
In conclusion: this is going to be a close game. It’s going to be intense, tough, and routy. The Saints are a great team, but so are the Niners. And the Niners have the edge: home field advantage and an insanely good defense. This game is putting the NFL’s best offense against the NFL’s best defense, and the defense will always come out on top. Every time. San Francisco has proven it in almost every game this year. Why should this game be any different? Also, keep in mind that I’m not the only one picking the Niners. Many, many experts and analysts are picking the red and gold for the exact same reasons I am. The 49ers are going to win this game. There’s no escaping that fact. The only thing I’m worried about is whether or not I’ll re-injure my throat (it was only last week that I had surgery), because I will be at the game with my Dad, cheering on the team that he raised me to love.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Saints 21