The Battle for NFC Supremacy:  49ers at Saints Preview

Kyle T. Mosley
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton at the Saints vs. Falcons Thanksgiving Game
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

NFC Supremacy in the NFL will be decided next Sunday, December 8, 2019 in New Orleans, LA when the New Orleans Saints host the San Francisco 49ers.  The NFC leaders will battle in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 12 PM CST in front of a loud and raucous crowd of Saints fans and Who Dats.   Both teams have a 10-2 regular season record and are #1 (49ers) and #2 (Saints) in the NFC.  However, San Francisco can tumble to #5 in the NFC if the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.

The 49ers lost 20-17 on Sunday in a tightly contested game against the Baltimore Ravens.  San Francisco matched the Baltimore "punch-for-punch", as Ravens Head Coach Harbaugh mentioned in their team's locker room, for most of the contest.  At the end, it was the Ravens' QB Lamar Jackson who controlled the football with a 12 play, 34 yard drive to set up a game-winning field goal attempt by K Justin Tucker.  As the rain kept pouring at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens ran down the clock to 0:03 seconds and Tucker drilled a 49-yard field goal for the win. 

Raheem Mostert #31 runs against the Baltimore Ravens
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens (10-2) are a half-game behind the New England Patriots (10-1) in the AFC playoff race.  New England will control their destiny and play the Houston Texans (7-4) on Sunday Night Football in Houston.  If the Pats win, they will remain in first-place in the AFC.  However, if they should lose, they will fall behind the Ravens to 2nd place because of the November 3rd lost 37-20 to the Ravens.

If the Saints can defeat the Niners, they will be in command of the NFC.  The next three teams New Orleans will play are in contention for the playoffs. The action in these games will be highly combative for all squads.  New Orleans will face two AFC teams, Indianapolis Colts (6-6) and Tennessee Titans (7-5), before concluding the season versus the Panthers in Carolina.

Saints All-Pro DE Cam Jordan celebrates one of his four sacks on Falcons Matt Ryan.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

7 Points to expect from the Saints in the 49ers Game

1.  The 49ers ran the football very well against the Ravens but can they duplicate against a stout Saints Defense?   RB Raheem Mostert carried 19 times for 146 yards in torrential rains.   The Saints defense has not allowed a 100+ rusher in 41 straight games.  It will be up to Niners RB's Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, and Tevin Coleman to break the Saints' defensive streak.  Expect San Francisco will challenge them on the edges.  This will be a test for Saints' Defensive Lineman led by Cam Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, and Marcus Davenport. 

2.  Drew Brees can have Success.   He does not have the legs of Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, but he knows how to pick apart opponents' defenses with his wisdom and arm.  The ferocious San Francisco defense could not completely shut-down the Ravens on the ground.   The Ravens ran for 178 yards and passed for 105 yards.   One can figure that Sean Payton can use RB's Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray just as effectively on next Sunday.  Also, Drew Brees can be more effective than the Ravens' passing attack.

3.  Man of Man Coverage.  The battle between 49ers CB Richard Sherman and Saints WR Michael Thomas will be a good one to watch.  Expect Thomas to be targeted heavily by Brees early and often.

4.  The Saints Secondary has seen a slight decline.  CB's Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple will have to limit Niners #1 target WR Emmanuel Sanders and rookie WR Deebo Samuels.  Both are very good on third downs and excel in YAC (yards after the catch).  Saints S Vonn Bell will need to shadow Niners outstanding TE George Kittle.  Again, tackling will be the issue in this match-up.

5.  Special Teams must be Special.  New Orleans P Thomas Morstead and K Wil Lutz have been consistent and outstanding in 2019.  The Saints' kick-off hands team allowed two onside kicks against the Falcons.  Expect Coach Payton to correct these issues on special teams.  KR Deonte Harris returned the Saints kick-off duties in Atlanta as he returned from a two game absence from a hamstring injury.  Can Harris help New Orleans with positive field position and on offensive “jet-sweeps” to catch an aggressive 49ers defensive off-balance?

6.  Saints Pass Rush has to be dominate and pressure Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo into sacks and mistakes.  DE's Cam Jordan recorded 4 sacks and Marcus Davenport added 2 of his own on Matt Ryan Thanksgiving evening. Expect LB Demario Davis, S Vonn Bell and DB Gardner-Johnson to be factors in blitzing Garoppolo.

7.  Saints Offensive Line will have their hands full against Niners DE's Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead.  DE Armstead leads San Francisco with 10 sacks and rookie standout Bosa has 8 on the season.  The Niners defense has 45 sacks on the season.  The Saints are not sure if LT Terron Armstead will able to return to protect Drew Brees on Sunday because of his high-ankle sprain.  Without LT Armstead and LG Andrus Peat (broken forearm), the Saints will again turn to journeyman LT Patrick Omameh and LG Nick Easton to join the offensive line.   On Thursday, the Saints offensive line did not allow Brees to be sacked.  Expect Head Coach Payton to focus on the rushing attack with RB Alvin Kamara leading the way. 

Key Injuries

Saints Offensive Linemen, Left Tackle Terron Armstead (Ankle) and Left Guard (Forearm)

Series Record

San Francisco 49ers leads the series 48-26-2 against the New Orleans Saints.  The Niners have won the past 3 of 5 games versus the Saints.

Where and When?

November 8, 2019 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA

The kick-off will be at 12:00 PM CST and televised by FOX Sports.

Follow the Saints News Network on Twitter (@SaintsNews)


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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Good article! btw, have game date as Nov 8th, should be Dec 8th. #whodat