The National Football League has two teams come together on Sunday who are on seemingly different trajectory paths. The home side, the San Francisco 49ers (1-6), have had a poor start to the season and are currently on a six game losing streak, leaving them bottom of the NFC West. The visitors, the New Orleans Saints, picked up a big win last time out against the Seattle Seahawks which leaves their record at 3-4 for the season and has them in second in the NFC South.
A healthier Saints team can keep the wins coming
After suffering quite a few injuries early on in the season, the Saints are close to full fitness and have many of their key players back in contention to start on Sunday. The secondary, which was a cause for concern in pre season, has benefited from the seemingly inexperienced players that the Saints started there and when those players missed games due to injury, the Saints defense suffered.
Now though, cornerbacks Delvin Breaux and Sterling Moore are due to be back against the 49ers and alongside safety Kenny Vaccaro, the Saints secondary looks to be shaping up well again as the season hits its halfway mark.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Drew Brees continues to be an elite player and probable hall-of-famer in the future. Brees has improved his accuracy from the pocket, averaging at about 77% in the last two games against two very good defenses and is on his way to another big touchdown season as he currently has 18 so far.
Helping Bress in keeping drives going are runningbacks Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower. Hightower had a standout game last time out against the Seahawks so expect him to see more minutes on the field this weekend. Although both runningbacks have not had huge games in terms of rushing yards, they pick up the hard, short yards that complete third down conversion when needed for the Saints. The Saints know that if these two continue to do as asked, it will give Bress the time inside the pocket to shred secondaries and give the Saints the wins they need to reach the playoffs.
The 49ers still searching for help, from anywhere
After their blowout win against NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams, things have not gone well for the 49ers. They have lost all of their proceeding games by at least seven points and find themselves in a slump that will remind their fans of their early 2000 seasons.
For such a storied team, there is something fundamentally wrong with the 49ers and while many will be quick to point to off-field issues as the cause, the main reason seems to be the front office and their inability to draft the right personnel.
Head coach Chip Kelly started the season with quarterback Blaine Gabbert but when that failed to spark his team, he switched to Colin Kaepernick which did not change his team's fortunes either. The lone bright spot for the San Francisco 49ers has been the form of runningback Carlos Hyde who is probable for this match up against the Saints after picking up an injury.
The 49ers biggest problem is their defense and by that we mean, their defense is struggling massively. The front seven cannot seem to stop the run or get to the quarterback while their secondary cannot match up one-on-one with most wide receivers in the league which allows teams to be able to sustain multiple drives in games against the 49ers. Nothing seems to be going right for the 49ers and unless something changes drastically during training this week, many cannot see how they will stop the Bress-led, high-powered Saints offense.
If the Saints can get it done against one of the league's top defenses in the Seahawks then they should have no problem against one of the league's worst defenses. As previously mentioned, the Saints secondary has returning players who will help shore things up and against a 49ers offense that has only managed 37 third down conversions in 102 attempts, the Saints should be the bookies favorites to win this game. The 49ers will try and put linebacker Ahmad Brooks in positions that could let him get to Brees but that has not happened often enough this season and with an offensive line that is beginning to find its rhythm, the Saints will probably keep Bress clean in the pocket.
New Orleans Saints 28, San Francisco 49ers 17.