The New Orleans Saints (6-2) enter week 10 of the 2020 NFL season as the NFC's best, following a convincing 38-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9. This week's foe? An old NFC WEST rival and the most banged-up team in football - the San Francisco 49ers (4-5). As the teams ready to play inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday afternoon, here are three things to watch as the Saints look for their sixth consecutive victory.
Was the Defense's Performance vs. Tampa Bay a Fluke?
New Orleans has had Tom Brady's number in both matchups of the 2020 NFL season, but this past Sunday, the Saints handed Tom Terrific the worst loss of his two-decade-long career. The Saints held the Buccaneers to under 200 yards of offense, sacked Brady three times, and picked him off three times. Perhaps most importantly, the defense did not show mental lapses, give up big plays, or commit personal foul penalties. But was it a one time show?
Before Sunday's dominant showing, the Saints ranked in the NFL's top ten in total yards allowed, points scored, and rushing yards allowed. The defense gave up big plays and was among the league's worst in defensive penalties. Has this changed in recent weeks as New Orleans approaches the home stretch of the season?
The weekly penalty numbers have decreased, and it appears the Saints' defense is heading in the direction many analysts predicted before the season began in September. Against a banged-up 49ers offense, the New Orleans' defense holds another opportunity to be dominant. Based upon the trends, I wouldn't put it past them. Sunday night could very well have been a coming-out party, and against the 49ers, the defense can prove they are here to stay.
Will Michael Thomas' "I'm Back" Moment Come Against 49ers?
After missing six games because of injury, All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas returned to the field in Week 9, recording five receptions for 51 yards. The Saints' top wideout played 55% of the team's offensive snaps as he returns from hamstring and ankle injuries. Still, his mere presence influenced the game heavily, allowing other players to get involved.
In last year's shootout with the 49ers, Michael Thomas racked up 134 yards and 1 TD on 11 receptions. However, this year's 49ers team looks 110% different from what they did a year ago. They have key losses in free agency, and over 20 players injured headed into Week 10.
Though most of the damaging injuries have come on the offensive side for San Francisco, the defense has taken some blows as well. The most considerable damage suffered was the season-ending injury to pass rusher Nick Bosa.
The Saints' offense should be clicking early in the Superdome - a great offensive line and healthy wide receivers, confidence is high in the Big Easy. Expect some muscle flexes after the first downs and touchdowns in this Week 10 matchup.
How do the Saints Follow Up Sunday Night's Masterpiece?
At 6-2 and currently riding a five-game winning streak, the Saints hold the NFC's best record after nine weeks and look to be hitting their stride. Following the team's masterful performance on NBC's Sunday Night Football against the Buccaneers, the Saints have risen into the conversation as an NFC favorite to win the Super Bowl. However, there is still half a season to be played, and how will the Saints follow up their best game of 2020?
New Orleans will host San Francisco (4-5) on Sunday at 3:25 PM CST inside the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 49ers enter this week's matchup as the most beat-up team in football with an injury list as long as a child's Christmas list. Due mainly to injuries, the Niners have dropped their previous two games and will again be without their starting QB, RB, and TE against the Saints.
If there is a team to play to continue growing chemistry and gain momentum at this point in the season, it is the 49ers. The abundance of injuries is nearly impossible to overcome for San Francisco as they face the NFL's hottest team. New Orleans should continue their dominance at home and move to 7-2.
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