LOCATION: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, CA)
BETTING LINE: NO (-4.5)
SAINTS PLAYER TO WATCH
Signed for his special team’s abilities this offseason, Nathan Stupar has found a nice role in the Saints’ linebacking corps. After three straight starts, he has racked up 32 tackles and one key interception that was the difference against the Seahawks a week ago. The Saints’ have had problems finding a successful linebacker rotation the last couple years but scored two emerging players in Craig Robertson and Nathan Stupar this year. Look for Nathan Stupar to be a big part of slowing down Carlos Hyde and containing Colin Kaepernick on the weak side edge. Also, Kaepernick has struggled to throw the ball since returning from injury and Stupar will be in charge of tracking down Kaepernick’s check down throws, in hopes of recording an interception for the second straight week. The Saints’ defense will have to play as one unit to find success, but Stupar has played exceptional recently and could make the difference in the game.
49ERS PLAYER TO WATCH
When Kaepernick first took the reins of the 49ers offense, he was regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the league; however, coming back from injury, he has relied more on his legs than his strong arm. He doesn’t have as many known weapons as years past, but Kaepernick still has a high ceiling for potential and should take advantage of a weak Saints’ defense. Though he has yet to surpass 200 yards passing this season, Kaepernick has proven that he can lead effective drives down the field. With the lack of depth on the 49ers’ roster, Kaepernick must rely on getting the ball to Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Kerley, while looking for Torrey Smith over top. If nothing else, Kaepernick has proven that he can run the ball effectively, leading the 49ers rushing attack for two straight weeks. Colin Kaepernick, with three weeks of training and solid preparation, could prove he is past injury and solidify his job in Chip Kelly’s offense.
SAINTS KEY POSITION GROUPS
The Saints had a 100-yard rusher for the first time a week ago and found success controlling the tempo of the game. This gave the defense time to rest, resulting in their best performance of the year. The Saints may not put as many points running the ball but with a balanced offense, they become much better in all aspects. Mark Ingram looks to bounce back after two costly fumbles but Tim Hightower has bought himself a good chunk of carries as well.
The Saints’ defensive line made Russell Wilson uncomfortable in the pocket last week and had their best performance of the season. The 49ers already have a hard time generating yards on offense but if New Orleans d-line can take away the 49ers run game, their defensive outlook will continue to look brighter.
New Orleans has shuffled through many different linebacking units this year but finally found a combination that has seemed to work. Filled with guys that are out to prove themselves, these Saints have flied to the ball and played as a unit for two straight weeks. The 49ers have struggled to pass the ball this season so look for them to rely heavily on their running game. Both the defensive line and linebackers will be counted on to fill gaps and make plays in the backfield.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
The Saints’ travel to Northern California to take on the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday. The Saints’ come into the game winning three of their last four and a big upset win over the Seattle Seahawks a week ago. Chip Kelly and the 49ers are looking to find their first win since week one.
The 49ers were regarded as one of the worst leagues in the team coming into the season and have lived up to their expectation. Colin Kaepernick is still looking to emerge out of his shell of injury and prove that he can be a viable quarterback in the league again. If there were a week to do it, it would be against the 28th ranked New Orleans Saints’ defense. On the other side of the ball, Deforest Buckner and Navorro Bowman must get after Drew Brees and limit the Saints’ high powered offense. Antoine Bethea will have to play at his best as well, as he has the task of matching up with the Saints’ young receiving core.
On the opposite sideline, the Saints’ look to keep their hot streak going and continue climb back into the NFC South race. This is a must win game for the Saints’ as they are only one game away from .500. Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense finally found a rushing attack and were two dimensional for one of the first times this season. This opened up the secondary, allowing Drew to throw for 265 yards on 35 attempts. More importantly, the Saints’ defense came alive to shut down the Seahawks’ offense. Only allowing one touchdown scored, New Orleans must be impressed with their quick improvement over the last couple weeks. Look for defensive coordinator to turn the pressure up and get after Kaepernick.
49ERS KEY POSITION GROUPS
The offensive line has to provide Kaepernick adequate time to throw to his wide receivers, without forcing his often misguided hand. If the offensive line is able to create gaps in the d-line, expect Kaepernick to create big gains as he has in weeks past. The offensive line must play near perfect if Kaepernick is to lead the 49ers to a much needed victory.
The defensive line for the 49ers will play one of the most important roles of the game. The Niners have allowed a lot of deep strikes down the field, and the best way to eliminate that is to put pressure on Brees. If the defensive line cannot get after Brees, look for the Saints’ offense to let Drew throw up and down the field.
The secondary will have their hands full and will have to play all four quarters to make the difference for the 49ers. All Brandin Cooks and Drew Brees need is a moment of lapse and they will challenge defenders downfield, as proven in Week 1 against the Raiders. Between the defensive line and secondary, if they are able to frustrate Brees, the Niners stand a good chance of pulling out a victory.