The New Orleans Saints advanced by beating Detroit over Wild Card Weekend 45-28 in a game where they did not punt the ball at all. That marked the fourth straight game that the Saints scored over 40 points and the third straight where they scored exactly 45 points.
The San Francisco 49ers are off a bye as the second seed in the NFC, a conference they led in scoring defense allowing 14.2 points per game. However, will that defense hold up vs. the best offense they will have faced all year?
The oddsmakers don’t think so, as the Saints are (-3½) road favorites, with the total set at 47½.
ODDS: OPEN: SAINTS -3 | CURRENT: SAINTS -3.5 | O/U: 47.5
1. Why New Orleans will cover the spread: The Saints will cover the spread if Drew Brees, who set an NFL single-season yardage record, can match that success vs. a good defense outdoors on grass. We think Brees gets a break in that regard with this game being in relatively warm San Francisco, so we think he will be fine. Besides it is not as if Brees has been awful on the road, as he is averaging 356.5 yards per game on a nice 8.0 yards per attempt outside of New Orleans while completing 70.5 percent of his passes with 17 touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
Sure, that TD/INT ratio pales compared to his 29 touchdown passes and six interceptions at home, but there is nothing wrong with those road numbers as a whole.
2. Why San Francisco will cover the spread: You can reverse the Saints’ key here as San Francisco will cover this spread if their great defensive numbers vs. lesser quarterbacks translate vs. the best quarterback they have seen all year. If the 49ers contain Brees, they will win this game outright because nobody runs on them, as they allowed only 77.2 rushing yards per game on 3.5 yards per rush.
Another key for a San Francisco cover is the ability to move the chains with a conservative offense while eating clock. That is certainly doable as Frank Gore can exploit a Saints’ defense allowing 4.9 yards per rush and quarterback Alex Smith has been good at protecting the ball with just five interceptions.
3. Total Talk: The Niners have no doubt been great vs. the lesser teams, but when they played some of the better offenses, they allowed 24 points in regulation to Dallas, 23 to Philadelphia and 20 to the Giants, and the Saints are at least a touchdown better than all those offenses. Thus do not be surprised to see San Francisco allow a season high in points here, although we don’t expect the Saints to hang up 40, as some touchdown drives they have had recently will turn into field goal drives vs. this defense. Once Brees establishes himself, it will take the 49ers out of their comfort zone because they will realize that they need to score points.
4. Betting Trends for the game: This trend actually goes against the Saints, as teams that score at least 40 points in the playoffs are 3-18 ATS the following week since 1996. However, the Saints are on an 8-0 ATS run as favorites.
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