“Coming For That Number One Spot”

NFC Game Of The Week 

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

49ers: After a dominating win over the Packers a few weekends ago, they were onto part two of their challenge. The next three games on their schedule were all against teams who would be in the playoffs if the postseason started today. The game against the Baltimore Ravens was one that had everyone talking. Maybe it was just a small snippet of what’s to come in February for the Super Bowl. After watching a large portion of that game, my biggest takeaway was the San Francisco 49ers will not back down from anyone in their path. Backing down displays weakness. They were able to give the Ravens all they could handle, but in the end, the Ravens were able to pull away. At 10-2, Kyle Shanahan still has his team in a really good position. I’ll admit, I was wrong about these 49ers. When I previewed the NFC West, I had them finishing with just six wins. Looking back at that now, I can laugh and say I was way off. I became a believer of theirs when they were able to beat the Los Angeles Rams. Ever since John Lynch was hired to be the general manager, his point of emphasis was to build up a championship style defensive front. If anyone knows about playing behind some legendary guys in the front seven, it’s John. Look what he was fortunate to be around back in his Tampa Bay days playing with Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. The 49ers defensive line I think is the best in the NFL. They do so many things to confuse an offense up front and no matter what happens, they’ll find a way to punch you in the mouth. It’s refreshing if you’re a linebacker or defensive back playing with an aggressive defensive front. If they want to get back to the winners’ circle, they’ll have to take down Drew Brees and company.

Saints: I was concerned about them after the game against the Carolina Panthers a few weeks ago. Especially on the defensive side because they gave up 31 points to that offense. The following week against the Falcons on Thanksgiving night, their defense really showed out. I wanted to see how the Saints would come out on a short week. They responded well. The offense was sharp as usual. One thing you must notice when facing the Saints is Drew always leaves with the cleanest jersey. He had time to throw from the pocket all game long. What really jumped out at me was their defense. They were able to sack Matt Ryan a total of nine times (you read that correctly). Whenever the Saints play their biggest rival, everything is out the window. It doesn’t matter what the records are, where the game is and who else is on your schedule. They knew Atlanta came into the Superdome a few weeks ago and embarrassed them. They were able to escape with a win on Thursday night. With that victory, the Saints became the first team this season to punch their ticket to the playoffs. They also won the NFC South for the third straight year. In a competitive NFC, they’re hanging around as you’d expect. They became the third team to reach the double-digit win plateau. They’ve had more than enough time to rest. This is their biggest game of the year on Sunday with one of the best in the league in town for some conference supremacy.

49ers Player to Watch: Deebo Samuel– I’m liking the trust that Jimmy Garoppolo is putting in him. I saw that on full display when the 49ers decided to go for it on fourth and two. Jimmy lobbed it up, Deebo came down with it for the six points. He does some of everything for the 49ers offense. He runs screens, he runs reverses and when you need a catch in traffic on third down, this is the guy next to Sanders that you want getting the ball. He’s excellent in space along with excelling in YAC (Yards After Catch)

Saints Player to Watch: Marcus Davenport– The pass rushing tandem of Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport is one you don’t hear much about. In just his second year, he’s become one of the leaders of that stout New Orleans defensive front. I’ve seen him come in untouched. He doesn’t quit until he gets to the quarterback. Marcus just doesn’t rush the passer. He can shed blocks to get after a running back. He’s a well-rounded player that can do it all. I like his motor because he’s always revved up. Number 92 always keeps it going.

Final Analysis: We’ve all waited for this one. The winner of this game will be in clear command of the NFC. San Francisco had some success running the football against the Ravens in week 13. This week could be a challenge because the Saints haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 41 straight games. I’m expecting the 49ers to attack the Saints defense on the edges. Drew Brees has been around the game for quite some time. He’s seen just about every defensive look that you can throw at a quarterback. He may not have the legs of Lamar Jackson, but he has the arm along with the wisdom to pick apart a defense. I have a feeling Sean Payton will also implement other ways to get Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray going in the offense. There are two matchups I’m watching in this game. The tandem of Sanders and Samuel against a Saints secondary that’s struggled. The other is Michael Thomas with Richard Sherman defending him. The key for the Saints will be their pass rush. Get pressure on Jimmy G and dominate up front.

Prediction: Saints 26 49ers 23

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