First Look: 49ers vs. Saints

A highly anticipated 49ers-Saints rematch from last year has lost a lot of its luster, but that still doesn't mean we're looking past it.
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With the world watching, the Saints made a huge statement to the rest of the league on Sunday Night Football by decimating the Bucs 38-3. It was the type of performance we have been waiting for from New Orleans, playing a nearly perfect complete game. At 6-2, they're certainly on the rise and closed out the midpoint of their season on a high note. Now, we turn attention to the back half of the year, which sees them first matching up against a 49ers team who came in and shocked them in the Superdome last season. Unfortunately, the cast and characters are not the same for San Francisco this time around.

Watch to Watch For

Was that the real Saints? It's the same question we asked after Week 1's victory over the Bucs, as New Orleans looked very impressive. Unfortunately, they regressed tremendously over their next two games (Raiders, Packers). Virtually every phase of the Saints' game on Sunday was perfect, which was refreshing to see against such a heavily favored foe. With the 49ers coming to town and being very injured, obviously the matchup doesn't have the type of hype as it did at the beginning of the season. This rematch from last year of a very entertaining and crazy game won't be the same, but in the same breath we don't want to see the Saints struggle and let San Francisco linger. New Orleans should come out firing on all cylinders again.

Jared Cook redemption. For everything that went right against the Bucs, Jared Cook was the lone exception. He had 2 catches for 30 yards against Tampa Bay, but gave up a costly fumble near the goal line. Cook was also beat badly in pass protection against Shaquil Barrett, which led to a Drew Brees fumble. Naturally, no big damage was done, but that was arguably his worst game with the Saints. Last year, Cook was on fire against the 49ers, and suffering a concussion was the only thing that stopped him. New Orleans needs the best of Cook, and this figures to be a big game for him to rebound.

The crowd size. Based on what transpired between Mayor Cantrell and the team in late October, the Saints are projected to have 6,000 fans in the stands for this game. Of course, it will never compare to a completely packed Superdome, however, given how things have gone this year, it's a welcomed sight. The last time New Orleans played at home against Carolina, the 3,000-fan Superdome was pretty good, all things considered. There's no question that the players feed off of that, so for a team that is surging in the right direction, it'll be a little tougher down the road for opponents.

Trey Hendrickson and the pass rush. If you would have told anyone at the beginning of the year that Trey Hendrickson would be 3rd in the NFL in sacks right now halfway through the season, then you'd likely be asked to get yourself checked out by a physician. At 7.5 sacks, Hendrickson trails Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett, both with 9 sacks on the year. In a contract year, Hendrickson is on his way for a big pay day, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to see the Saints try to get him locked up now. New Orleans is quietly tied for 8th in the league with 22 sacks, and their pass rush could be heating up even more.

Kwon Alexander's debut? Alexander is with the Saints now after coming over via trade, and due to the COVID-19 protocols, he could not play against the Bucs. However, this is his first full week, and there's a lot of anticipation for what he'll bring to the table for Dennis Allen's defense. More importantly, will he take snaps from Alex Anzalone pairing alongside Demario Davis? There's no pressure on Alexander to come out and produce immediately, especially after dealing with an ankle injury that has sidelined him since Week 5. However, him returning to a shell of his former self will really help a Saints defense that has continuously improved each week.

It'll be a late kickoff on FOX during the 3:25 p.m. CT slot, with Adam Amin and Mark Schlereth handling the broadcast call.