After a romping victory featuring a lot of RB Darren Sproles against the upstart Detroit Lions, the San Francisco 49ers will play the New Orleans Saints for the right to duke it out for the NFC Championship against the winner of the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.
There is reason to believe the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers game will actually play out closer than the other NFC divisional match despite New Orleans not having the added benefit of the BYE week. Yes, the San Francisco 49ers feature one of the best run games behind RB Frank Gore and boast a terrific top notch run stopping defense with DL Justin Smith bolstered by LB’s Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. The San Francisco 49ers also feature a solid secondary to contend with QB Drew Brees and his multi-faceted passing attack.
The New Orleans Saints may not have the greatest defense, but with play-makers like MLB Jonathan Vilma and FS Darren Sharper, there are enough skilled players and heavy hitters to stop what semblance of an offense San Francisco does indeed feature. QB Alex Smith has enjoyed a resurgence thanks to first year coach Jim Harbaugh, but it will not be enough to run laps around the Saints defense.
The Saints are very unlikely to score more than thirty points against such a disruptive defense with solidity at all three levels, but as the NFL (and various articles by yours truly) have described, in this day and age a potent offense trumps a good defense. If this game winds up being a blowout, it is because the Saints have numerous breakthroughs in the passing game and the 49ers cannot pass the ball. If the multi-faceted running tandem of RB’s Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and Darren Sproles take control of the clock and move the ball with ease, it will be all over from the opening kickoff. If Brees is forced to make plays, the Saints will be in decent positioning, but Brees will not be able to take a consistent beating by the defensive line of San Francisco.
The key to this pivotal game will be the Saints capability to move the ball in a multi-dimensional procedure against a stout 49ers defense. If the Saints are capable of executing their game plan to efficient measures, this one will be over quickly. The 49ers will likely encounter trouble on offense if RB Frank Gore does not have an excellent night, but if he does, the 49ers will have a shot.
This game is by no means an absolute Saints blowout, but with the 49ers void of any truly potent weapons outside of Gore, the Saints will look to tee off and stuff the middle, leaving Smith to be the player to beat them.
If the Saints put up points early, Smith will have himself one heck of a hole to dig out of, maybe too deep for another rising team in the landscape of the NFL.