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49ers vs. Saints: Who wins, and why?

The Niners Nation staff predicts today’s game.

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Today’s a big one. The San Francisco 49ers travel to face the New Orleans Saints as the two teams battle for the top seed in the NFC. Here are our staff predictions for today’s game.


I don’t want to call it a bounce-back game just because the Niners lost, but everything coming out of practice this week was that the team had newfound energy, an extra pep in their step. I believe we see an offensive explosion from the 49ers today, as George Kittle goes over 100 yards. Defensively, San Francisco is simply too much for New Orleans. Statement game from the best team in the conference, 31-17, 49ers and they take back the lead of the NFC West after today.

El Pato

Running quarterbacks seem to be the kryptonite of the unstoppable 49ers defense while pocket passers get demolished. The Saints fall into the latter camp. Not only do they have a pocket passer, but an aging one in Drew Brees behind an offensive line missing a piece.

Sean Payton is a different beast of a coach, and he’ll keep this close through the game, but the final minutes, the 49ers will get something going to put a stop to this. Expect a Drew Brees pick-six at some point in this game.

28-24, 49ers

Josh E.

The 49ers are playing meaningful football games in December! What a time to be alive. Kyle Shanahan has the offense rolling - Jimmy Garoppolo has had a passer rating of at least 110.0 over the last three games, and Deebo Samuel is emerging as a top target alongside the surging George Kittle.

On the defensive side of the ball, we are seeing Defensive-Player-of-the-Year-like play from linebacker Fred Warner. He may be the difference-maker going up against a New Orleans offense that is ranked 9th in the league in total offense in 2019.

This game entirely and completely winnable, and if the 49ers want to avoid being stuck as a wild card team, then this is a must-win, especially with the Seattle game in week 17 looming on the horizon.

SF over NO, 31-20

Akash (@akashanav)

I cannot believe that San Francisco is 10-2 and playing in a must-win game to avoid being on the road to open the playoffs. Yet, here we are.

The Saints will be without starting linebackers A.J. Klein, and Kiko Alonso — which the 49ers’ revived rushing attack and tight end George Kittle should be happy about. The 49ers’ offense as a whole will enjoy the temperature-controlled Super Dome, compared to last week’s wet mess in Baltimore, and that’s going to be the difference in this ball game.

San Francisco’s front-four has been dominant all season long, and they get the NFL’s best situational pass rusher — Dee Ford — back this week. Recently crowned NFC’s defensive player of the month, Fred Warner, has been playing out of his mind and will be key to slowing down running back Alvin Kamara on Sunday.

This is the healthiest that the 49ers have been since Week 2 of the season, and I think Kyle Shanahan and the coaching staff realize the importance of winning this game and find a way to pull this one out in the Big Easy.

49ers, 30-23

Jeff Medina (@JeffMedina49)

Like the 49ers, the Saints come into this game with a 10-2 record, but this league is about matchups, and this matchup favors the 49ers. Saints QB Drew Brees is strictly a pocket passer, which will allow Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to rush from the edges with abandon. I expect pressures, sacks, and turnovers to dictate the pace of this game early on, making it difficult for New Orleans to put points on the board.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers will attempt to establish the run early, but it may be tough sledding against a stout Saints run D that is surrendering just 88.6 yds per game - 3rd fewest in the league. In fact, they have yet to allow an opposing RB to rush for over 100 yds, including Christian McCaffrey (64), Zeke Elliott (35), Todd Gurley (63), Leonard Fournette (72), and Chris Carson (52).

If the 49ers are going to move the ball successfully, it’ll most likely be through the air - where New Orleans is slightly more vulnerable. I expect Kyle Shanahan to have success early in the game, scheming open 49ers playmakers George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Emmanuel Sanders, allowing the team to build an early lead, which should give the NFL’s top defense plenty of breathing room to apply the pressure and finish off the game.

49ers, 27-10