Over the past few years, the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints have gotten to know each other pretty well. Most notably for the once-in-a-lifetime game in the 2011 Divisional Round playoffs and the infamous bounty scandal that followed it. So with many good games and other parallels under the belts, the 49ers and Saints meet each other for the fourth time in four years. The Saints are looking to avenge their last two matchups against the 49ers and the 49ers are trying to stay afloat in the playoff race. So just how good are the Saints?
Last year, the Saints had a very disappointing year that could be pinned on the punishments that the organization received from the league. The Saints’ defense was so bad last year that they even set a record for most yards allowed in a season. Even Drew Brees and the offense couldn’t keep up with the other offenses because their defense was so bad. But this season, it is much different for the Saints.
The Saints are currently 7-2 and are the second seed in the NFC. Their offense is scoring 29.4 points a game, which is second in the NFL. But everyone knows about the Saints’ offense and how good it is. What has changed this year and made the Saints especially dangerous is a complete turnaround of the defense.
After allowing 28.4 points per game last year, the Saints are now only allowing 18.1 points per game, which is good enough for fifth in the league. They are also allowing only 317.6 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the league. A good amount of the turnaround is attributed to drafting Kenny Vaccaro and hiring Rob Ryan as the defensive coordinator. Unfortunately for the Saints, there is a possibility that Vaccaro might not play on Sunday. If he does not play, we will see just how much of a difference he has on this defense.
When all sides of the ball are clicking, the Saints are one of the most dangerous teams in the league. But luckily for the 49ers, the Saints’ only real weakness plays right into the 49ers’ strength. The Saints are allowing 117.7 rushing yards per game, which is 23rd in the league. The 49ers must exploit this weakness to have any real chance of winning. They cannot let the Saints get too far ahead or else their is no coming back. They must control the clock and keep Drew Brees and that deadly offense on the sideline.
The 49ers’ defense must limit the Saints’ offense while the offense must be consistent and put together good drives. This is practically a must win game for the 49ers as the Seahawks are running away with the division and the Cardinals are right behind them. They can’t afford to lose many more games because they are fighting the rest of the NFC for one of the two wildcard spots. The 49ers have gone into the Superdome and beaten the Saints recently, but the Saints are a different team than last year and they are dangerous on both sides of the ball. This is a statement game for the 49ers, and they must make a big one.