Two of the NFC's top teams face off this Sunday as the New Orleans Saints host the San Francisco 49ers in a game with critical postseason significance. The 6-3 49ers, coming off a tough 10-9 loss to Carolina, need a win to stay within striking range of the NFC West-leading Seahawks. The 7-2 Saints, who dismantled the Cowboys in a 49-17 blowout last week, hold a tenuous one-game advantage over the hard-charging Panthers in the NFC South.
The Saints are three-point favorites at Oddsshark.com, thanks largely to the home-field advantage they hold in the raucus environment of the Superdome. They've been dominant at home this season, not only going 5-0 straight up but undefeated against the spread (ATS).
The 49ers have been good away from San Fran this season, but don't get too caught up in their 3-1 road mark -- their three opponents during those away victories are a combined 5-14. Against Indianapolis -- the one winning team they've travelled to and the only one with a loud dome similiar to what they'll face in New Orleans -- they lost by 20 points.
The Saints have owned recent success in head-to-head matchups, going 6-2 straight up in their last eight meetings and 10-5 ATS in their last 15 meetings with the Niners.
With the offensive firepower that both teams possess, you may be tempted to take the over on the game's 48-point over/under, especially when considering they average a combined 54.6 points per game and the total has gone over in five of the Saints' last six contests. Keep in mind, however, that both teams have scoring defenses ranked in the top five and neither has allowed over 20 points in any of their last three games.
The matchup to watch will be Drew Brees and the New Orleans passing attack against the Niners secondary. Brees and his host of receivers are averaging the second-most passing yards per game in the league, 325, while San Fran's defense is allowing just 212. No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston has been banged up recently for the Saints, but looked plenty healthy in his 107-yard, one touchdown performance against the Cowboys.
The 49ers will likely be able to hang around by pounding the ball against a Saints front susceptible to the run, but if New Orleans can build a lead and force the Niners to play from behind, they could have an easy win. Colin Kaepernick is averaging just over 150 passing yards over his last three games, and a revitalized Saints secondary ranks third in the NFL agains the pass under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.