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The New Orleans Saints go on the road Saturday afternoon and play the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. The Saints are a rare road favorite in the divisional round and are expected by many to beat the 49ers. SB Nation's Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles, tells us why the Saints will win and why they'll lose.
Why The Saints Will Win: The Saints are simply the hottest team in football right now and their offense can't be stopped. They face the NFC's best defense in San Francisco but Drew Brees just has too many weapons to throw to and will always find the open man. As long as the Saints can keep San Francisco's scoring down, the game is in the bag.
Why The Saints Will Lose: If the Saints don't come prepared and mail in an uncharacteristically sloppy performance, replete with turnovers and piss poor tackling like last year's Wild Card matchup against the Seahawks, they'll have little to no chance of beating a talented 49ers team .
With the San Francisco 49ers hosting the New Orleans Saints in the 2012 NFL Playoffs, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith's wallet just got a little thicker. By playing in a playoff game, Smith has triggered a $1 million bonus in his contract according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
By playing in today's playoff game, 49ers QB Alex Smith will trigger a $1 million bonus in his contract. A rewarding season becomes more so.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 14, 2012
The clause stipulated that Smith must play at least 70 percent of the snaps during the regular season and play in the playoff game. Smith also earned another bonus in his contract by playing 80 percent of the snaps and received a $1.5 million bonus. Smith's salary for the 2011 NFL season was originally $4 million, but with triggering the two bonuses it will push his total 2011 money to around $6.5 million.
Not bad for a guy who many expected to be benched in favor of second round draft pick Colin Kaepernick mid-way through the season.
The San Francisco 49ers will host the New Orleans Saints on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the divisional round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. SB Nation's 49ers community, Niners Nation, made their picks on the game -- they think San Fran can win -- but also told us how the 49ers will win and how they'll lose.
Why The 49ers Will Win: The 49ers defense is able to generate a solid pass rush with their front four, which allows them to drop their secondary into coverage and their inside linebackers into depth to cover tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Darren Sproles. The 49ers will win if they can generate a pass rush against Drew Brees and force him to throw before he wants to throw.
Why The 49ers Will Lose: The 49ers will lose if they are unable to turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns. They have had some red zone success lately, but they had a brutal stretch where they couldn't buy a touchdown in the red zone. The 49ers defense can only be expected to contain Drew Brees (as opposed to shutting him down), so field goals will not be enough.
The San Francisco 49ers are hosting the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs. The 49ers hold home field advantage in this game, and have lost only once at home this season. Unfortunately for the Saints, this could pose a problem. The Saints have lost both road playoff games while Drew Brees has been the team's quarterback.
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh knows how important home field is, and what it means to the players. Well, I think it's an advantage. "They work very hard for it. They earned it. And they get the benefit of that," Harbaugh said at a Thursday press conference. "So, it's not to say that teams don't win on the road in the playoffs, because historically they do. But, I think our team goes into this game confident and bold and with a great amount of respect for the New Orleans Saints team as well. Great amount of respect for who they are, what they do, and what they're capable of."
With their top broadcasting crew dispatched to Lambeau Field to call Sunday afternoon's New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game, FOX has sent their "B" broadcasting team of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and field reporter Tony Siragusa to the Bay Area for Saturday afternoon's NFC Divisional Playoffs game between the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
The Saints were involved in the second most-watched playoff game last weekend, with 31.8 million tuning in for their 45-28 win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night. The Saints-49ers drew the opening playoff game of the weekend, which due to a late Saturday afternoon start time, attract the smaller audiences. Last Saturday's Cincinnati Bengals-Houston Texans game in the same time slot drew just 21.9 million viewers, a little over half of the 42.4 million viewers the Pittsburgh Steelers-Denver Broncos game would draw 24 hours later.
For a dome team with an offense centered around an elite quarterback and a vertical passing attack, an outdoor road game in January can be a scary proposition. Fortunately for the New Orleans Saints, the forecast for Saturday afternoon's NFC Divisional Playoffs game against the San Francisco 49ers calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the low-to-mid 60s.
Little wind is expected and the temperature will approach record highs for January.
Earlier this week, David Fucillo of Niners Nation jokingly suggested that maybe the 49ers could leave the sprinklers on overnight to slow down the Saints.
"I do think the 49ers can beat the Saints in good weather at Candlestick, but why not keep the sprinklers on a little bit longer before Saturday's game? Dampen up that surface just a little bit more and maybe it slows down the Saints even further."
The New Orleans Saints are looking to make their second Super Bowl in three seasons, but in order to do so they'll have to beat the San Francisco 49ers on the road, attempting to win the Saints first playoff road game in the franchises history. The Saints are 0-4 in franchise history on the road in the playoffs. Not only will the Saints have to play on the road, they'll also need to travel out west. "This will be a good challenge for us," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "Not just playing on the road, but traveling west."
On the other hand, the 49ers are playing in their first playoff game since their 2002 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "You tend to be a little jealous of the guys that are playing in the playoffs," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "We'll be one of eight teams, and hopefully after we'll be one of four. We're going to enjoy this." This will be the first meeting of the two teams in the playoffs, but the 49ers look to their defense to slow down the Saints explosive offense. The 49ers gave up just 10.9 points per game this season, going 7-1 at home in 2011.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, January 14; 4:30pm ET
Location: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
The San Francisco 49ers host the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, with the 49ers defense matching up with the Saints offense. It's the proverbial irresistible force vs. the immovable object. A big wild card in the game however will the the San Francisco 49ers offense, and just really what to expect from it. James Brady at SB Nation Bay Area points out, the Niners offers is really an unknown commodity.
But Alex Smith and the passing game are wild cards. Could they have their best game this season? They sure can, considering the state of the Saints defense from week-to-week. But who will contribute to that? Who will be the focal point? There are plenty of players that can get open and get things done with the ball in their hands, but the 49ers haven't established much offensive identity through 16 games under Jim Harbaugh.
The Niners have the No. 29 ranked passing offense in the NFL, but still managed a 13-3 record thanks to their running game and suffocating defense. The San Francisco receivers saw just two players catch more than 20 passes in Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, but had seven players catch anywhere from 10 to 20 passes on the season. There's a lot of unknown in the Niners passing offense and that could help them against the Saints defense who's given up big plays in the passing game.
The San Francisco 49ers ordered in pizzas and watched last weekend's playoff games at the team's facility before discovering who their opponent would be Saturday afternoon at Candlestick Park. San Francisco will now try not to get sliced in eight different ways when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints come to town for an NFC Divisional Round showdown.
The 49ers captured the NFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye heading into their first postseason appearance in nine years, thanks to a 13-3 record in the regular season and the franchise's first NFC West title since 2002.
The Saints' propulsion to near-excellence has been going on since bouncing back from their last defeat on Oct. 30 against the St. Louis Rams. They have won nine in a row in the meantime, including last Saturday's 45-28 victory over the Detroit Lions at the Superdome in the opening round of the NFC Playoffs.
Date & Time: Saturday, January 14th, 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree has had the "diva" label attached to him since his days with the Texas Tech Red Raiders. A contract dispute that lingered well into October of his 2009 rookie season, him missing the last two training camps and preseason games with various injuries, including a chronic foot issue, and a practice field spat with teammate Vernon Davis in 2010 has only advanced the outside perception that Crabtree remains a diva.
Crabtree's teammates, however, disagree with that label, writes Matthew Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.
"I never saw that whole entire label that everybody was putting on him," left tackle Joe Staley said of Crabtree. "He's been nothing but a great professional and a great teammate since he's been here. … He works really, really hard at his craft, and we're seeing the fruits of that this season."
Crabtree set a career-high in 2011 with 72 receptions and 874 receiving yards. In 42 career games, the 10th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft has 175 receptions, 2,240 yards and 12 touchdowns. Unlike most players at his position, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Crabtree has shown a willingness to block.
"A lot of (wide receivers) don't do that stuff," Staley said. "He does that without question, all the time."
The San Francisco 40ers have found great success with first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, but now both need to prove that they are up to the task of seeing things through in the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Having been the No. 2 seed in the NFC, the 49ers are rested and ready to go against a New Orleans Saints team that didn't pull away for good against the Detroit Lions until the fourth quarter. While Drew Brees leads a powerful passing attack for the Saints, the media are selecting the 49ers for the home upset, like CBS Sports' Pete Prisco.
Prisco sees the 49ers squeaking out a 27-26 victory over the Saints. Rookie linebacker demonstrates the youth and inexperience of this team, but Prisco doesn't see that being a factor. Rather, he believes that the 49ers offense will be able to do just enough against the Saints defense to pick up the victory.
Prisco's fellow panelists at CBS are divided, picking the Saints, 3-1, but when we look at their selections against the spread (including Prisco's) the 49ers have a 3-2 edge
As the San Francisco 49ers get set to host the New Orleans Saints, you're going to get a lot of analysis on the matchups from quite a few different people. You'll get some celebrities talking about the game and you'll get some former NFL players giving their opinion on the game. Former NFL players such as former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Bill Romanowski.
Romanowski joined "The Wheelhouse" on 95.7 The GAME with John Lund on Wednesday on "The Football Hour" to preview this Saturday's New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers playoff game. Being a former linerbacker, John Lund asked Romanowski what the 49ers defense should do on defense to stop the New Orleans Saints.
What was Bill Romanowski's answer?
"They [the 49ers defense] got to lay some people out," Romanowski told 95.7 The GAME. "This has got to be a stretcher game. I'm talking... bring out the stretcher and take [Marques] Colston to the hospital. Take Darren Sproles to the hospital, because he got knocked out."
On Saturday night, the San Francisco 49ers watched the opening round of playoffs during their bye week and learned that they'll be facing the New Orleans Saints next week. the Saints knocked off the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card Round and earned the right to come to San Francisco next Saturday.
It was another typical offensive explosion on Saturday by Drew Brees and the Saints, who came to life in a big way in the second half of the game to take the 45-28 victory and advance to the second round.
It will be interesting to see how the offensive-minded Saints stack up against the insanely tough defense of San Francisco, but the early reports on the opening betting line appear to be in favor of New Orleans. According to Saturday night's post-game telecast on NBC Bay Area, the opening odds for the Saints-Niners game favor New Orleans to win by 3 points.
The New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers released their first practice participation reports of the week and there was one notable surprise. Saints strong safety Roman Harper was a surprise scratch from practice due to an ankle injury. The injury was not noticed during the Saints wild card matchup against the Lions and is believed to be somewhat significant.
Harper has indicated he expects to play on Sunday, but an ankle injury could cause some problems if he is slowed. Harper is the Saints leading sack man and also a key part of their rush defense. The 49ers play fairly physical on offense and Harper would have to deal with Frank Gore in the running game and Vernon Davis in the passing game. Harper will likely take much of this week off from practice to get ready for Saturday.
For the 49ers, Delanie Walker sat out practice and is not expected to play on Saturday. He broke his jaw in Week 16 and has only recently been cleared for conditioning work. The team will re-assess him on Monday and if they are able to defeat the Saints, there is a chance he would be available for the NFC Championship Game against the Packers or Giants.
49ers Practice Participation Report
Did Not Participate: TE Delanie Walker (jaw)
Limited Participation: CB Chris Culliver (knee), WR Ted Ginn (ankle), DT Ray McDonald (hamstring), WR Kyle Williams (concussion)
Saints Practice Participation Report
Did Not Participate: TE John Gilmore (toe), S Roman Harper (ankle), WR Lance Moore (hamstring)
Limited Participation: LB Jonathan Casillas (knee), LB Jonathan Vilma (knee)
Full Participation: WR Robert Meachem (knee)
The New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers both have big time home field advantages combing for 15 wins and one loss at home this season. Saturday's NFC divisional round game will be played in San Francisco so the 49ers have some edge there but the oddsmakers still favor the Saints.
49ers QB Alex Smith, who is having a solid, relatively mistake-free season, spoke with the media this week about why he's been able to play better at home this year.
"I don't know. It's a great question. Obviously crowd noise plays into that, especially on third down when you're trying to throw the ball on the road. Anywhere you go you're going to be dealing with crowd noise. So at home, to be able to use the cadence and be able to communicate a little easier, verbally obviously helps. I think that might play into it."
Drew Brees and the Saints seem to score just about anywhere. In addition to the crowd noise, the 49ers obviously need pressure from their defensive linemen and linebackers to knock Brees out of his rhythm.
Thanks to many years spent as rivals in the old NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are no strangers to one another. The two teams have met 71 times, with the 49ers holding a 45-24-2 edge in an all-time series that included two annual games from the 1970 merger right up until 2001, the season before the NFL realigned to eight, four-team divisions.
Saturday afternoon will be the first time the two clubs will meet in the playoffs.
Lately, the regular season series has been dominated by the Saints. Winners of nine of the last 11 meetings, the Saints have won all six meetings since realignment and are averaging 31 points per game doing so for an average margin of victory of 12.2 points per game.
The 49ers and Giants find themselves facing off against the two best quarterbacks in the NFL and arguably the two most dynamic offenses in the league. Can a strong pass rush make the difference in the divisional round? For more on the 2012 NFL Playoffs, head over to SB Nation NFL.
The San Francisco 49ers will host the New Orleans Saints in the 2012 NFC divisional round game on Saturday afternoon and, if you believe the NFL oddsmakers, the 49ers will lose the game. San Francisco is a three-point home underdog and most pundits are predicting New Orleans will take care of business.
But the 49ers are indeed capable of winning. They were victorious in 13 of their 16 regular season games and they've established a dominant defense that now faces its biggest test -- Drew Brees and the Saints offense.
SB Nation's 49ers blog, Niners Nation, has a run down on the keys to the game for San Francisco and one of them jumped out at me -- turnovers. The 49ers are a whopping +28 in the turnover category this year, which is tops in the league.
You can map out keys to every game in the NFL every year and you're going to see one constant -- turnovers. It's one of the most important stats of the game and the 49ers are one of the league's best in that category.
The Saints have plenty of reasons they should win this game but they won't do it with multiple turnovers against this 49ers defense.
The NFL playoffs move onto the divisional round with four games this weekend. Which of those teams playing should be on upset watch? SB Nation's NFL playoffs roundtable says the Packers and Saints.
In his first season with the San Francisco 49ers, head coach Jim Harbaugh hasn't devoted much time to making friends with opposing coaches. Before his infamous run-in with Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, Harbaugh reportedly offended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton by not calling him to discuss how they would approach their preseason game.
Though it was only a preseason opener, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams threw exotic blitzes at the 49ers, sacking quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick six times.
Harbaugh told reporters on Monday that he was unaware that such gentleman's agreements existed, reports Matthew Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.
"I don't know anything about that," he said. "I'm certainly not aware of any gentlemen's agreement. I even asked my brother (Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh), 'Is there any sort of gentlemen's agreement that you call a coach before a preseason game?' Even he wasn't aware of it. And even if there was, we wouldn't do it anyway. We ask no quarter, we get no quarter."
The San Fransisco 49ers are dealing with a mostly clean bill of health and should have all of their star players ready to go in the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, but they are dealing with a few slight injury concerns. The most significant of those is the injury to tight end Delanie Walker, who is very unlikely to play. Vernon Davis is the most well-known tight end on the Niners roster, but they use two tight end formations frequently and Walker is an underrated piece of their offense.
It's not all bad news for the Niners, however. Kyle Williams, Ted Ginn, Jr. and Ray McDonald are all expected to return to action this week. McDonald is having an excellent season at defensive end, while the 49ers' wide receiver corps are thin without both Ginn and Williams.
The 49ers are returning to the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Jim Harbaugh gets much of the credit, but GM Trent Baalke might be the real key to this 49ers turnaround.
Since Drew Brees and offensive mastermind Sean Payton united in New Orleans in 2006, the duo have been the backbone of one of the NFL's most unstoppable offenses, particularly in the Superdome, where they are 9-0 this season.
A dominant 45-28 victory over the Detroit Lions in the first round, with Brees completing 33-43 passes for 466 yards and 3 TD's, pushed their home playoff record in New Orleans to 4-0.
It's a different story on the road, as the Saints have lost both road playoff games -- a 2007 second-round game at Soldier Field in Chicago and a 2011 first-round game at Qwest Field in Seattle -- in Brees' tenure there.
While he was still effective in both losses, they do provide a blueprint for the San Francisco 49ers when they host New Orleans in windy Candlestick Park on Saturday.
San Franciso, with a strong ground game led by Frank Gore that can control the clock as well as a dominant front seven capable of harassing Brees in the pocket, has the pieces to challenge a Saints offense that has seemed invincible at times this year.
The Saints took care of business against the Lions and move onto the divisional round where they'll face the 49ers.
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