The divisional round of the NFL Playoffs is usually the most exciting, and every game on the docket this weekend has plenty of storylines.
The first game we will see will see the NFC South Champs, the New Orleans Saints, travel to San Francisco to take on the NFC West Champion 49’ers.
It seems that most of America are on the side of the Saints, and even Vegas has them installed as a slight road favorite. Not a shock, as they have maybe the best QB in football in Drew Brees, who broke Dan Marino’s record for yards passing in a season.
Both teams have won 13 games, but one major number that people seem to forget is the difference from the Saints playing at the Superdome as compared to the road.
At home, the Saints put up 41 points a game, and played the game like it was a video game. On the road though, they were a lot more like everyone else, scoring 24 points per game.
New Orleans was 5-3 away from the Superdome. The Saints rallied to beat Carolina 30-27 on October 9th, then lost 26-20 at Tampa Bay a week later. They also lost 31-21 to the then-winless Rams in St. Louis.
They have averaged 37.6 points while winning four of their last five postseason games, but against the Niners, they are going to have their work cut out for them.
The Niners boast one of the best defenses in the game, with a strong front seven that can beat anyone in the game. Their secondary is their weak spot, but they still have guys that can create turnovers.
San Fran’s defense ranked fourth in the NFL allowing 308.2 total yards, their own defensive performance could be the difference this weekend. Look for them to try and pressure Brees, and to make sure he doesn’t pick them apart down the field.
Brees has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,475 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions while going 5-0 against the 49ers.
The Niners will need to run the ball a lot, and with success. It keeps Brees off the field, and also establishes the attitude San Fran needs to win this game. Look for a healthy dose of Frank Gore, who an for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
He averaged 53.6 and scored three times in his final eight games, as the Niners put themselves in position to be the second seed in the conference to earn the week off and the home playoff spot.
This may be the closest game of the weekend, and I’ve flip flopped all week on this one. The Saints are the sexy pick due to their offense, but after watching the Niners defense dominate quite a few times in 2011, I think San Fran will use the underdog role and come out with a win to put them in the NFC Title Game.
San Francisco 27 New Orleans 24