49ers: Game breakdown and prediction for Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints

Another week. Another tough game and potential playoff matchup for the San Francisco 49ers. Will their defense be able to step up again? Or will the Niners have to find another way to win like they’ve been doing all season?

After a heartbreaking loss last week in Baltimore, the San Francisco 49ers now travel to the Bayou state to take on Drew Brees and the 10-2 New Orleans Saints.

It’s a game that could foreshadow a potential NFC Championship matchup with two elite defenses and coaching staffs on full display.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this game turns out well for the 49ers, but I have to think they have a much better chance of pulling out the upset than they did last week against the Baltimore Ravens.

Last week, it was a matchup against one of the hottest players in football in Lamar Jackson who’s an elite running quarterback in this league.

This time, although the matchup is against the great Drew Brees, the Niners don’t necessarily have to worry about a mobile quarterback breaking pocket on them.

Nor do they really have an issue with an over-the-top offense like the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, or Green Bay Packers that can rocket the ball down the field.

The Saints use a lot of run game behind a stout offensive line and an almost exclusive slant pattern scheme to Michael Thomas about 75 percent of the time (I made that up, but it’s a lot of target shares to Thomas). 132 balls have gone in Thomas’s direction this year (I didn’t make that up).

So, in theory, you could have Richard Sherman use his frequent flyer miles and actually travel to cover/lockdown Thomas and virtually shut the Saints’ offense off.

The more I think about it, this actually might not be a bad upset pick in the 49ers’ favor. After all, their defense has shut down everybody outside of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.

But before I change my mind, I’m going with the Saints in this game. They’re at home and their defense is playing at an elite level; maybe not as flashy as the 49ers since they don’t force a lot of turnovers and whatnot, but they’re holding teams to 21 points a game.

Here’s where I tend to lean in the Saints’ direction. Even though they’re not overly-dynamic on offense (and I think you may have to be to beat this 49ers defense), what the Niners do especially well on offense is run the ball.

Despite the flashiness and creative play-calling from Kyle Shanahan, this Niners team is really just like the Los Angeles Rams from last season, which is a power-running team disguised as a smoke-and-mirrors passing offense.

San Francisco is second in the league averaging 148 rushing yards per game behind only Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. This Saints team, however, is letting up just 89 rushing yards a game, which is third-best in football.

If the Saints can effectively shut down the 49ers run game, which, statistically they should be able to do, the game then falls into Jimmy Garoppolo‘s hands. And outside of the first Cardinals game, Garoppolo has been rather average and turnover-prone to high heaven.

So, we could see a situation where the Saints shut down the Niners run game and Jimmy G gets his team into trouble by turning the ball over.

How’s that for overthinking a game entirely? I could’ve easily just said the Saints are going to win because they’re so good at home, but nope. I took you on an entire lap of the race track.

Here’s the real dilemma. What do we do with the 49ers in terms of betting?

Look, this Niners team has done very well this year at covering both in wins and losses, but now I look at a 2.5 line in favor of the Saints. I mean, the Saints can manage to win by a field goal, right? Three points is really doable from where I’m sitting.

Next: The 49ers have the best defense in football and the numbers back it up

So, I’m going to say the Saints win this game 26-23 and cover the 2.5 (really 3) point spread.