After taking care of business Saturday evening by beating the Detroit Lions 45-28 at home, the New Orleans Saints go marching west to take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Playoff round. The Saints look like a team on mission to erase last year’s playoff blunder when they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in round one. Drew Brees has had an unbelievable season throwing for 5,476 yards breaking Dan Marino’s single season passing record while adding 46 touchdowns to boot. Tight end Jimmy Graham has become Brees go to guy this season hauling in 99 receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. Darren Sproles may be the offseason move that pays off the most of any in the NFL this season as he has solidified the Saints running game along with Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. The Saints offense ranks first in total yards and second in points per game. If they can be stopped on offense, the defense will give up some points.
The 49ers return to the playoffs under the direction of first year Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. After leading Stanford to a 29-21 record in four years at Stanford, Harbaugh was named the 49ers head man January 7th last year. Just over a year later the 49ers went 13-3 winning their division going away and earning a first round bye in the NFC Playoffs.
Former number one overall draft pick Alex Smith has settled in as a “control the game” type quarterback. The Niners lean heavily on their running game with Frank Gore rushing for over 1,200 yards this season and eight touchdowns. Vernon Davis is one of the most dangerous tight ends in the game and Harbaugh loves the tight end. San Francisco is going to have to control the clock with the running game and short passing game to slow down the Saints attack. Defensively San Fran ranks second in points allowed and first against the run. That means something is going to have to give in this one. The Saints experience in the playoffs may be enough to put them over the top here.
SAINTS VS. 49ERS
SAT. JAN. 15 – 3:30PM / FOX – CANDLESTICK PARK