The highlight of the Week 14 NFL schedule might be the NFC heavyweight matchup between the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers. The fun gets started at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 8 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. A majority of the country will be able to watch the game on Fox.
According to the Week 14 NFL odds, the Saints are favored by 2.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 44.5 points.
The 49ers have arguably been the best team in the NFL for most of the season, but they find themselves in a tough spot heading down the stretch. The team traveled east last week, only to give up a last-second field goal in a 20-17 loss to the Ravens. They now have to travel slightly less east to New Orleans for another date with one of the NFL’s best teams. To make matters worse, San Francisco’s 10-2 record is only good enough to put them into a tie with the Seahawks atop the NFC West standings. With another loss this week, the 49ers could find themselves in a Wild Card spot.
Meanwhile, things are a little more easy in the Big Easy. The Saints have won three in a row and have already clinched the NFC South division. They’ve also had a little bit more time to prepare for this game after playing on Thanksgiving. More importantly, the Saints can also put themselves in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the NFC with a win this week. Like the 49ers, New Orleans is 10-2 at the point. The Saints already have a head-to-head win over the 10-2 Seahawks, so beating the 49ers head-to-head would make it that much easier for New Orleans to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs. Of course, the Saints still have a few tough games at the end of the season, but beating San Francisco would be a big step in the right direction.
I hate going against the 49ers after the kind of season they’ve had. However, they’ve come up three points short against both the Seahawks and the Ravens over the past month, so it’s not out of the question that they’ll lose by a field goal to another one of the NFL’s elite teams. I still think San Francisco is one of the best teams in the league, but right now, I think the Saints are a more complete team. With New Orleans playing at home, I think leaning toward the Saints to cover 2.5 points is the best option.
The San Francisco passing attack is my biggest concern in this game. Jimmy Garoppolo has had a fine season, but he’s rarely dominated games. When he’s been at his best, it’s usually been against some of the weaker defensive teams in the NFL. Against the Ravens last week, he managed just 165 passing yards. I have to think the 49ers will need more out of him in a game like this. To make matters worse, George Kittle continues to fight through an injury. He had just two catches for 17 yards against the Ravens, and it’ll be tough for San Francisco to win if he continues to have a limited impact on games.
In fairness, the San Francisco running game has been good enough to carry the 49ers for most of the season. But the New Orleans defense is no pushover. The Saints have managed to contain some of the league’s best rushing teams, most notably the Cowboys and Panthers. New Orleans also has a lethal pass rush led by Cameron Jordan and his 13.5 sacks. If the Saints can force the 49ers into passing situations, they can get after Garoppolo and make it tough for the San Francisco offense to move the ball.
Of course, the 49ers are one of the best defensive teams in the NFL, conceding just over 15 points per game. They had perhaps their most impressive performance last week, giving up just 20 points to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, even in a losing effort. However, the New Orleans offense presents a different kind of challenge than the one the 49ers faced last week.
Drew Brees and the Saints probably have the best passing attack the 49ers have seen this year. In fairness, San Francisco dominated Aaron Rodgers and the Packers just a couple of weeks ago. But stopping Brees and the New Orleans offense will be a little different. The Saints have Michael Thomas, who is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL right now. Tight end Jared Cook is also coming on strong late in the season. Plus, remember that the Saints can mix things up with Taysom Hill, who played a huge role in the team’s Thanksgiving win over the Falcons.
In the end, I think Brees and the New Orleans passing attack will be the difference in this game. The 49ers might have a little bit of an edge when it comes to defense and the running game. But the Saints have a distinct advantage in the air, especially playing at home in the Superdome. Admittedly, this game could go either way, but I like my chances a little more with the Saints covering 2.5 points at home.