The New Orleans Saints will travel to California to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, November 6th. Last week, the Saints gutted out a tough win against the Seattle Seahawks; the 49ers are coming off a bye week.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram is regularly regarded as the Saints’ top running back; however, after a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Seahawks, head coach Sean Payton benched Ingram. Tim Hightower replaced Ingram as the primary running back, and he ran for 102 yards on 26 carries. The 3.9 yards/carry average isn’t pretty, but it was most definitely an admirable performance against a mighty Seahawks defensive front seven.

The 49ers’ defense is allowing an average of 185.1 rushing yards a game. Although it looks like the Saints’ passing attack should be ready to go, they should look to rely on the run game. The Saints truly achieved balance offensively against the Seahawks as they ran the ball 35 times and passed 35 times. Regardless of who gets the majority of the carries for the Saints, both Hightower and Ingram should have a big day on the ground.

2) 49ers’ Deep Coverages

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 49ers utilized a lot of single-high safety sets. When a team uses a single-high safety set, they use one safety in deep coverage. The Seahawks largely shut down the Saints’ deep ball last Sunday. The Saints will likely try to attack the 49ers deep early on. Brandin Cooks is a lethal receiver, and his specialty is the deep ball. It will be interesting to see if the 49ers diversify their defensive looks by sending more defensive backs into deep coverage.

3) Nick Fairley/Sheldon Rankins vs. Joshua Garnett

Saints fans will finally get to see first-round draft pick, Sheldon Rankins, in action on Sunday. He was activated off of the injured reserve on Saturday. Rankins will likely be on a pitch count, so Fairley will continue to see the bulk of the snaps at the 3-technique position. 49ers’ rookie offensive guard Joshua Garnett will see a lot of both Fairley and Rankins. Garnett has struggled in pass protection thus far. Both Fairley and Rankins will have plenty of opportunities to show off their pass rushing abilities against Garnett.

4) Delvin Breaux and Sterling Moore

Delvin Breaux and Sterling Moore were labeled as questionable on the injury report. If the duo returns to the field, the defense will be receiving a major upgrade. The possible return of Breaux will be the most impactful, however. Last year, Breaux emerged onto the scene and quickly developed into the team’s best cornerback. A broken fibula has kept him off the field, but he made the trip to San Francisco. Breaux plays with a physicality that gives many receivers problems. Moore will likely assume the nickelback position for the Saints.

5) 49ers’ Rushing Attack

The 49ers’ are averaging 4.1 yards/carry and 128.6 yards/game; the Saints’ defense is allowing 110.7 yards/game. Starting running back Carlos Hyde’s availability on Sunday is still up in the air, but if he is indeed able to play, it would provide a big boost for the struggling 49ers offense. Colin Kaepernick adds another element to the run game that the 49ers didn’t have with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen may have to use a linebacker or defensive back as a “spy” throughout the game to minimize Kapernick’s impact on the ground. The Saints will want to force the 49ers to throw the ball, and the only way to do that is stop the rushing attack.

Predictions

  1. Brandin Cooks will have two catches of 30 or more yards. Payton and Brees will test the 49ers early and often deep, and Cooks will have a lot of success down the field.
  2. DeForest Buckner will have 2 tackles for a loss and a sack.
  3. Sheldon Rankins and Nick Fairley will combine for three sacks.
  4. Saints win a close one by a score of 28-24.