NFC heavyweights will do battle on Sunday when the New Orleans Saints (7-2, 5-0 home) play host to the San Francisco 49ers (6-3, 3-1 away) in a Game that will be televised at 4:25 PM EST on FOX. This Game is important for both teams in their respective divisional races as the 49ers seek to stay close to the Seahawks and the Saints try to create distaNCe from second place Carolina. Also important is the fact that this could be a preview of a meeting between these teams in the 2013 NFL Playoffs.
The Saints are currently a three point favorite at 5 dimes sportsbook and are heavily backed by the public at 87%, using the betting trends provided by 5dimes.com. This is due in large part to the stellar season they are having combined with the fact that they are almost untouchable when playing in the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome. They will play with a depleted secondary as S’s Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper will miss another Game. San Francisco could be without TE Vernon Davis who suffered a coNCussion last week against Carolina. Backup TE GArrett Celek (hamstring) is likely out too. S Eric Reed is also questionable with a coNCussion.
The OVER/UNDER is set at 47.5 points and is 5-4 for both teams this season. The total has gone OVER in 6 of San Francisco’s last 7 Games on the road. The total has gone OVER in 11 of New Orleans’s last 16 Games at home. The total has gone OVER in 4 of New Orleans’s last 5 Games when playing San Francisco. The 49ers covered the spread in the last three meetings with the Saints, but New Orleans covered thrice in a row immediately before that.
The 49ers are a throwback to the days of an established running attack complimented by a tough as nails defense. The running Game is led by work horse RB Frank Gore (700 YDs, 4.3 AVG, 7 TD). He has seven rushes for at least 20 yards this season.
QB Colin Kaepernick can run too; he’s got 310 YDs and 3 TDs on the ground. A second round NFL draft pick in 2011, Kaepernick is in the midst of a sophomore slump (1,675 YDs, 9 TDs, 6 INTs) and might have to make big plays without Vernon Davis (30 rec, 520 YDs, 7 TDs) , easily his second favorite target. Kaepernick will try to get the job done with Anquan Boldin (41 rec, 574 YDs, 2 TDs), but another WR is going to have to step up to improve the 49ers passing attack.
San Francisco’s defense ranks 9th against the pass at 211.4 YPG and 12th against the run with 105.3 YPG. They effectively contained Saints QB Drew Brees last year, holding him to 26/41 passing for 267 YDs, 3 TDs and 2 INTs. The way they react to him this year will have a big impact on the outcome of the Game.
Stopping QB Drew Brees is something most teams cannot do. He ranks 2nd in the NFL in TDs with 25 and is also second in YDs with 3,064. His Passer Rating of 108.9 is also second best. He trails only Peyton Manning in these categories. He has hit eight different targets for TDs this year, but TE Jimmy Graham has clearly been his favorite. They have hooked up to reach the end zone together 10 times in 2013.
The Saints defense is 3rd in the NFL against the pass, allowing 199.9 YPG. They are much worse against the run, ranking 23rd at 117.7 YPG. Stopping Frank Gore could be a challenge.
It’s difficult to back the 49ers in a big spot when you consider that they have failed in their biggest tests this season, against “good teams”. Their losses came against Indy, Seattle and last week the Panthers. Two of those losses were at home. If you’re looking to hang your hat on something for the 49ers, you’d have to point to the Saints losses to the Jets and Pats. That, and a little desperation can’t hurt the Niners.
All the numbers we like to look at, iNCluding Our Score Prediction model, suggest that the 49ers are the right side here. Our gut says the Saints will be too much at home and the spot here is just a field goal, so we’re just basically looking for the straight up winner. So which way are we going? When in doubt, go with the numbers. 49ers +3