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Saints vs. 49ers

NFC Divisional Playoffs

Pick with Analysis

1/14/12

The New Orleans Saints will head to San Francisco on Saturday afternoon to take on the 49ers in an NFC Divisional playoff match up. The Saints are fresh off their Wild Card home win over the Lions while the 49ers had a bye. The Saints opened as -3 point favorites at both betonline and 5 Dimes and the early money has pushed the line to -3.5, even 4 in spots. So far, the public is all over the Saints (this is being written on Monday morning).

The love affair with Drew Brees and the Saints is an easy one to understand. The Saints score points, and lots of them. The Saints have scored 42+ points in 4 straight games, 45 in 3 of those. The 49ers have scored more than 42 points just once all year.

Most will look at this game and compare the offenses. They'll then ask the obvious question, can the 49ers and their average of 20.6 points over the last 6 games, match points with the high powered Saints offense and their average of 38 ppg over that same 6 game stretch? Heck, we can take any time period over the course of this season. The Saints score boatloads.

But the Saints aren't a one trick pony. They can play some defense as well. Again, if we look at their last 6 games down the stretch, they have an offensive yards per point number of 13.7 and a defensive number of 19, which is very  good. Over the last 6 games the Saints have allowed 17 points or less 4 times, 20 points once and then 28 last week to the Lions.

The first thing we think of when we talk 49ers, is a great defense. But let's talk offense first. It's not as if the 49ers can't put points on the board. They averaged just about 28 points per game at home behind the arm of Alex Smith and the legs of Frank Gore. The winner of this game will be the team that plays their game offensively. A high scoring game with the Saints in the 30's or so, and the Saints move on. A game in the lower 20's likely goes to the 49ers.

I'm a defensive guy. Always have been, always will be. There's nothing like a dominating defense come playoff time. A dominating defense can really take over a game this time of year. The 49ers led the NFL in takeaways this year with 38 while turning the ball over just 10 times for a +28 in turnover margin. The Saints had 16 takeaways and turned the ball over 19 times for a -3. Quite a discrepancy.

The 49ers defense allowed just 3 100+ rushing games this year, and those were just a tad over 100 allowing 108, 126 and 111. The last two were in the final 2 games of the year, when the 49ers had already wrapped up a playoff spot. The Saints on the other hand, allowed 10 100+ yard rushing games and several of those were 150+ yards.

Passing defense was no different. The 49ers gave up 300+ yards 4 times while the Saints gave up 8 300+ yard passing games. One such game was last weekend when they allowed Stafford and the Lions to throw for 380 yards.

If you'd like to be even less impressed with the Saints, simply take them out of the Superdome and have a look at their season results:

34-42 LOSS at Green Bay
23-10 WIN at Jags
30-27 WIN at Panthers
20-26 LOSS at Bucs
21-31 LOSS at Rams
26-23 WIN at Falcons
22-17 WIN at Titans
42-20 WIN at Vikings

Does that look like the scores of a team that should have the 49ers trembling in their boots? Not at all. In fact, I see one blowout in the bunch, a 42-20 win over the hapless Vikings. Otherwise I see losses, only one of which was to a good team, and I see close games, none of which came against a defense like the 49ers. Speaking of defense, take a look at the games against teams that fielded a respectable defense this year, Jacksonville and Tennessee. That's about where we'd expect this game to be. Low 20's. Only we see the 49ers in the low 20's and winning straight up.

Here are the 49ers home scores. Without opponents names mentioned, but keep in mind, some of the same teams that the Saints played, and lost to, are among them.

33-17
24-27
48-3
20-10
27-20
23-7
26-0
20-3

Now, which set of scores is more scary? Other than the Saints loss at Green Bay, the 49ers are clearly superior to every single other team on that road schedule of the Saints. It's not even close. The Saints will have their work cut out for them.

A strong case could be made that the wrong team is favored here. The 49ers have all the tools to dictate the pace of this game. They have a home field edge that not only favors them because of the crowd, but also the playing surface. They have a solid running game and a defense that can dominate. We see the 49ers on top here and would be very surprised if this game also didn't fly under the total of 48. Actually, if this game goes over the total, it's likely good night San Fran.

Lastly, we'll take a look at the Saints yards per point numbers on the road. A below average 16.2 offensively and a below average 14.6 defensively for a differential of -1.6. The 49ers at home have a ypp number offensively of 11.7, fantastic, and a defensive number of 27.9, which is through the roof, astronomically good, with a differential of +16.2.

So we'll make 3 recommendations here in order of preference:

49ers +3.5  Key Release

49ers money line +170

49ers/Saints UNDER 48
 

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