The New Orleans Saints enter Saturday’s divisional-round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers riding a nine-game winning streak.
After smoking the Detroit Lions 45-28 in the Wild Card Round, the Saints look primed to make a deep run this year. Unfortunately for the 49ers, they landed in the path of an offensive juggernaut.
Against the Lions, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns. That just added to the incredible season he is having. As we all know by now, Brees set the single-season passing yardage record this year, throwing for an insane 5,476 yards.
Largely thanks to Brees’ incredible season, the Saints boasted the NFL’s top offense this season, averaging 467.1 total yards per game.
They also had the top passing offense (334.2 yards per game), sixth-ranked rushing offense (132.9 yards per game) and second in scoring with 34.2 points per game.
While the 49ers had the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense this season (allowing 77.3 yards per game), they ranked 16th against the pass (230.9 yards per game).
Unless head coach Jim Harbaugh comes up with a dynamite game plan, the Saints should be able to spread the field and pass all over San Francisco.
The problem for the 49ers will then be keeping pace with the high-powered Saints. The only way to do that is to eat up yards through the air, something San Francisco is not adept at doing. The 49ers ranked 29th in the league in passing offense this season, averaging just 183.1 yards per game.
Quarterback Alex Smith has made tremendous strides this season, but he is still just a game manager and not a passer who could keep up with Brees.
While the 49ers surprised everyone and had a fantastic season, their downfall will be an average pass defense and an inability to get big plays in the passing game.
The Saints should run away with this one. Few teams in the NFL can score with them–San Francisco is not one of them.