The San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are a day away from squaring off in the Superdome, which means we are about ready to wrap up our game week previews with Canal Street Chronicles. On Thursday, we both broke down the offensive and defensive reasons why we thought each team would win. On Friday, we took a look at under the radar players on both sides of the ball for both teams.
And now, it's time for five questions. Tre answered CSC's five questions, and I've gotten some answers from Wallace Delery of Canal Street Chronicles.
Niners Nation: Big picture, how much of this turnaround is due to the return of Sean Payton? What's changed from last year to this year?
CSC: The overwhelming majority of the credit belongs to the return of Sean Payton. Drew Brees is the glue that holds the team together, but Payton is the glue that holds the entire franchise together. His influence, leadership, confidence, game planning, and game management could not and will not be easily replaced. Last year the Saints looked lost and were forced to overcompensate for their atrocious defense, this year the confidence and belief have returned.
NN: What are the weaknesses (if any) in this explosive Saints offense?
CSC: There is no more glaring weakness than the offensive line. This is clearly the weakest offensive line of the Sean Payton era and it is exactly where the 49ers can gain the upper hand in this game. Exploit the line and you get to Brees, as well as ending the threat of a rushing game.
NN: It appears the Saints run defense leaves a little something to be desired. Is this due to the defense selling out against the pass, or are there some specific weaknesses in the group?
CSC: For all of the impressive strides this defense continues to make, they still get beat at the line and take bad angles at the second level. This is a very exploitable issue that the Niners may be able to take advantage of. Ultimately though, this defense has the talent and potential to shore up these issues and become much better against the run, unfortunately it won't likely happen this week.
NN: What's the plan with all the injuries at safety, particularly if Kenny Vaccaro sits out?
CSC: If healthy themselves, Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper will be expected to start at safety. Now, stop your salivating there, the Saints will also be giving a great deal of playing time to Rafael Bush and Isa-Abdul Quddus, who have both been much improved this season and have been given plenty of playing time. There's no sugar-coating it though, Vaccaro being out is a serious blow.
NN: Overlooking last year's struggles, how does this team compare to the previous three seasons in which the team went to the playoffs?
CSC: The 2009 Saints won 13 consecutive games, were among the best in turnover margin, and won the Super Bowl, so they stand far above the rest.The 2010 team was more consistant on defense, but the offense had it's struggles. The 2011 team had an absolutely unbelievable offense, but the defense became increasingly ineffective, culminating with a fatal playoff performance that season (ask Vernon Davis).The 2013 Saints may ultimately prove to be at least second best among these other seasons. The defense is clearly the strongest and most consistent of these teams and although the offense isn't consistently as dangerous as the 2011 team, they still display moments of dominance like last Sunday night.