New Orleans Saints (13-3, 12-4 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (13-3, 12-3-1 ATS), 4:30 p.m. EST, NFC Divisional Playoffs, Saturday, January 14, 2012, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California, TV: Fox
by Scotty L, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: N.O -3.5/SF +3.5
Over/Under Total: 47.5
Make the Saints a +23.5 underdog by placing them in a 20 point football teaser at 5Dimes (They also offer -105 odds on sides/totals!)
The New Orleans Saints head west to face the San Francisco 49ers in a divisional playoff game on Saturday. Other than the Packers, this is the class of the NFC, with these teams a combined 27-6. For bettors, these two teams have been awfully profitable, only failing to cover 7 times in 33 combined chances. With each team playing with a honed edge and heightened sense of purpose, this game could be the crown jewel of this postseason.
N.O. beat Detroit badly last Saturday in the first round of the playoffs, with the 49ers getting the week off as the NFC #2 seed. The score of 45-28 suggests a routine victory, but the Saints had a worrisome start, falling behind 14-10 at halftime. Any hopes of a Detroit upset were soon squashed, as the Saints got rolling with 35 second-half points. And there lies the problem for any team facing the Saints–stopping a powerful and diverse offense that seems to actually be getting better. By the end of the day, the Saints had run for 167 yards, with another huge performance from Drew Brees, who threw for 466 yards and 3 touchdowns.
On paper, if any team on the road to the Super Bowl can stop the New Orleans juggernaut, its the 49ers. San Francisco has the top-rated defense in the conference and are #2 in the entire league with a scant 14.3 points allowed per game. Then again, they didnt really face the great offenses this season. It would have been nice going into this game to have seen them contain a team like the Patriots, Packers, or Saints. They never played those teams, so one has to wonder how a secondary ranked #16 will hold up against the Saints high-flying attack.
But lets not allow the sparkling New Orleans offense to blind us from the merit of the 49ers. They were tied for the league-lead with 38 takeaways and led all teams with a mere 10 turnovers on offense. The time off had to help, especially for veteran RB Frank Gore, who despite a good season, sagged a bit to the regular season finish line. The defense will be bolstered by the presence of LB Patrick Willis, who will play after being banged up late in the season. Return threat Ted Ginn, Jr. is also back and can spring one at any time.
To say San Francisco has struggled recently is overstating the point. Losing 2 of their last 6 after a 9-1 start isnt really saying much, even though they were only 3-3 ATS in their last 6, after going 9-0-1 in their first 10. Its just that the Saints have won and covered in 8 straight games. You see how theyre clicking now and the energy and passion that this team is radiating and you wonder how good this team really is. They will have to prove they can do it at a place like Candlestick Park. Since week 2, the Saints have scored more than 30 points 7 times. All but one of those games was at home–the other being at the Metrodome. And against this defense, domes wont be their only concern.
One could say New Orleans matches up well on paper with San Francisco. The Saints defense is better-suited against running offenses, which is the 49ers bread-and-butter. And the 49ers D, while an all-around good unit, is less effective and unproven against the pass, which is obviously a New Orleans strong suit. But one wonders if those numbers mean much in light of the fact that the Saints averaged 41 points at home and only 27 on the road. And of the 8 home teams they faced, only Jacksonville had a top-ten defense–which held the Saints to a reasonable 23 points.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This is one of those games where you think about how the game will play out and all you’ll see in your mind is Drew Brees throwing the ball all over the field and the Saints putting up big numbers. But on Saturday, what you’ll really see is the Niners defense creating havoc for Brees and company and SF moving on to the next round. I’m betting SF + the points!
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