The San Francisco 49ers are set to take on the New Orleans Saints in a hotly-anticipated Week 11 matchup. San Francisco is 6-3,and coming off a demoralizing 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That loss snapped a five-game winning streak. The Saints are 7-2 and have exchanged wins and losses over their last four games, falling to the New England Patriots and, most recently, the New York Jets in Week 9.
But the Saints are coming off a dominating 49-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys,and are playing at home. Home-field advantage is huge for them, as Drew Brees is just amazing in a dome. Both of the Saints' losses have come on the road this season.
We'll take a look at both teams below, starting with the home team:
Meet the Saints
Brees and the Saints have been so good this season. They have the No. 2 passing offense in the league, as they throw for 324.9 yards per game on average. They should have a tough time against the 49ers in that vein, however; San Francisco boasts the No. 9 passing defense, allowing 211.4 passing yards on average, and have been great at creating turnovers this season.
The best way to stop the Saints offense is to get the ball away from them immediately. Brees is too good on first and second down, so creating turnovers is a must. The running game has been a problem for New Orleans, as they rush for just 97.8 yards per game, but Mark Ingram had a huge game last week, putting up 145 yards against the Cowboys. So it will be interesting to see if he gets more carries this time around.
Meet the 49ers
San Francisco has survived with a strong running game and a great defense this season. Colin Kaepernick is no Brees, even if he does have huge playmaking ability. Kaepernick hasn't been able to make his depleted receiving core get much done and accordingly, the 49ers have the No. 32 passing offense in the league.
They do rush for an awful lot of yardage, however. They rush for 147.7 yards per game on average, led by Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, along with Kaepernick from the quarterback position. The Saints have the No. 23 rush defense in the league, allowing 117.7 rushing yards per game.
Attacking on the ground is obviously the way the 49ers need to go, but if the Saints get up on the scoreboard, the 49ers may be forced to pass the ball more. That's the biggest concern with this game. Nobody is doubting that Gore can pull off a big game. The doubt comes as to whether or not that will be enough.
Local Takes: Saints
J.R. Ella of Canal Street Chronicles thinks that Sean Payton is eyeing evening things up with Jim Harbaugh:
Harbaugh will be looking to take a 2-0 head-to-head matchup lead on Payton (San Francisco defeated the Saints 31-21 in the Superdome last year while Payton was suspended). He'll also try to improve his record to 3-0 against the Saints since becoming the Niners head coach.
Payton, undoubtedly, will have flashbacks of the Candlestick heartbreak and will be looking to erase the bad taste it left in his mouth. On Sunday, he will have been waiting for that moment for precisely one year, ten months and three days.
Local Takes: 49ers
The folks at Niners Nation note that the 49ers have to get their yardage on the ground on Sunday:
Chris Ivory ran for 139 yards on 18 carries against the Saints. He had over 100 yards on three of those carries, and a per-carry average of just 2 yards on the other 15. That's a good way to put that defense in perspective. Gore will get his yardage in chunks on Sunday, but if the 49ers are to keep up, they'll need to be big chunks and he'll need to get them often.
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Four of SB Nation's six experts picked the Saints to win, with Stephen White and David Fucillo, the editor for our 49ers blog, picking San Francisco. For all of the Week 11 picks, go here.
The Saints opened up as 2.5-point favorites, and the line moved slightly throughout the week. Some sites had the Saints favored by as much as 3.5 points, according to OddsShark.