New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers: 5 Bold Predictions

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints will be seeking to strengthen their chances at earning the NFC’s #1 Playoff seed when they host the visiting San Francisco 49ers this Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kick-off is for 12:00 p.m. Central time and will be broadcast to a majority of the nation by FOX. The game can be seen locally in NOLA on WVUE-TV Channel 8.

Both teams will enter into this long-anticipated match-up with identical (10-2) win-loss records, but the Saints are the first team in the NFL to have clinched a post-season berth by virtue of having already won their 3rd consecutive NFC South Division Championship.

As a result, the Black and Gold own the current tie-breaker for the top seed in the conference over the (10-2) Seattle Seahawks and the 49ers, who as of right now would be the top Wild Card team (with the #5 seed) from the conference.

With that in mind, here are Big Easy Magazine’s 5 BOLD Predictions for the contest.

#5. Saints RB Alvin Kamara Has His Best Performance of the Regular Season

The 24-year old Kamara hasn’t quite been himself this year, as the Saints 3rd year superstar has been battling nagging injuries to both his knee and ankle that seemingly has limited his production in the Saints high-powered offensive attack dating back to to the middle of this season.

However, in this game Kamara will end up having his best performance of the year thus far; as he rushes for 110 yards on 18 carries and adds an additional 7 receptions for 79 more yards receiving out of the backfield; along with 2 touchdowns (one running and another receiving).

As a direct result, Kamara’s great individual effort allows New Orleans to keep the vaunted 49ers defensive Front 7 off-balance, which will eventually setting up a fantastic finish late in the 4th quarter.

#4. The 49ers Running Game Has a Big Day Against the Saints Defense

San Francisco has the #2 ranked running attack on offense in the League (148 yards per game) this season through 12 games, and that’s been the impetus for much of their notable success on the ground this season.

New Orleans however is currently the #3-ranked team at defending the run, which obviously will make stopping the 49ers running game all the more critical for the Saints if they harbor any serious hopes of earning that top #1 Playoff seed in the conference.

As it turns out however, in this game the Niners will be up to the task, as the 1-2 combination of RB’s Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert combine to rush for 97 yards and 72 yards respectively, which allows San Francisco to gain an early advantage on the scoreboard.

#3. Saints QB Drew Brees “Out-Duels” 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Another reason for the 49ers’ success this season has been the notable improvement of 6th year veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo, whom San Francisco acquired in a trade near the end of the 2017 NFL Season from the New England Patriots after he won two Super Bowls as the back-up QB to Patriots QB Tom Brady.

Garoppolo missed most of last season in 2018 with a knee injury, but since returning to San Francisco’s starting line-up has since blossomed into a top-caliber passer in 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offensive scheme.

However, in this Sunday’s game Garoppolo will be “out-dueled” by Saints 19th year veteran Drew Brees, whose own sensational individual performance (25 completions out of 33 passing attempts for 310 yards and 3 TD’s) helps the Black and Gold keep the score close up until the very end.

#2. Saints WR Michael Thomas and 49ers CB Richard Sherman Have a Memorable One-on-One Match-Up

Sunday’s contest will actually feature a handful of great individual one-on-one match-ups, but perhaps none of them will be any more intriguing than the battle that’s expected to take place between Saints All-Pro WR Michael Thomas against 49ers #1 starting cornerback Richard Sherman.

The 31-year old Sherman is a 4-time All-Pro and still is considered one of the League’s premier defenders, but undoubtedly will have his hands full this week with Thomas, who this season leads the NFL in receptions (110) and receiving yardage (1,290) as he edges closer to setting the NFL record for catches (143) set originally by Indianapolis Colts WR Marvin Harrison back in 2002.

In this Sunday’s game, Thomas will end up getting the better of Sherman, as the Saints 4th year superstar WR hauls in another 10 receptions (on 12 total targets) along with 119 receiving yards while once again helping lead the way for the Saints passing attack.

#1. The Score is Tied in the 4th Quarter When….

On a crucial 3rd Down-and-7 play at the Saints 22-yard line, Garoppolo is intercepted by Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, who returns the ball back to up to near mid-field as the Saints manage to avoid a 49ers score which would have given San Francisco at least a 3-point lead with the game clock winding down towards the two-minute warning.

The Saints now have the ball back on offense and appear to be headed for pulling out the game in the final minute of regulation themselves, but San Francisco then makes a ‘big play”of their own on the very next snap of the football ⁠— when Brees is sacked for a an 11-yard loss by 49ers defensive rookie defensive end Nick Bosa.

As a result, the Saints are also now out of field-goal range, and the contest heads into overtime with the score all tied-up at 24 to 24.

But then on the very first play of overtime, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan comes up with what eventually turns out to be the biggest play of the game, when he hits Garoppolo from behind and gives the Saints offense a golden opportunity to put this one into the win column.

On the very next play from scrimmage, it’s Kamara who ultimately delivers the fatal “knock-out” punch for the Saints, as he grabs a pass from Brees at the 33-yard line and outraces the entire 49ers defensive secondary before diving over the right inside pylon of the goal-line, giving the Black and Gold their 11th victory of the season and puts them one step closer to earning the top seed in the conference for a 2nd straight year.


Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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