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49ers vs Saints game preview: New Orleans is better than their record indicates

San Francisco can’t be caught looking ahead ...

Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

I hope everyone reading this had a great holiday and was able to spend it doing something they love with people they love. However, we have a business to attend to now, as the 49ers will look to continue their winning streak when they square off with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon in Santa Clara.

DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the 49ers listed as a 9.5-point favorite over the 4-7 Saints, but I am going to give you a few reasons why this matchup has the potential to be more difficult than the record and spread would indicate.

For starters, the Saints offense boasts a top ten ranking in both yards per game and red zone conversion rate this season, despite having a quarterback change during the season after injuries sustained by starting quarterback Jameis Winston.

New Orleans has a strong stable of skill position players, anchored by two-time all-pro running back Alvin Kamara and standout rookie wide receiver Chris Olave who leads all rookies while ranking 11th in the league overall with 760 receiving yards this season.

The Saints also have a jack of all trades in Taysom Hill, who is deployed at multiple positions and can run, throw, and catch at a level that keeps teams off guard with his usage on any given play.

New Orleans brings a balanced attack on offense, ranking ninth in net yards per pass attempt and 13th in yards per carry this season.

On the other side of the ball, the Saints are sporting a top-12 defense in yards allowed at 327.7 yards per game. While they are ranked 25th in points allowed, they have been in the top half of the league in two of the most important areas of the game.

While the 49ers' offense has found its groove on third down over the last month, the Saints' defense has been relatively strong at getting off the field on the money down this season. Opponents are converting 38.8 percent of their third down tries against the Saints this season, which ranks 12th best in the league.

Third down is always pivotal, but where this matchup really might come down to is the 49ers' offense and the Saints' defense in the red zone. Despite coming off a 100 percent red zone conversion rate in their win over the Cardinals, the 49ers have had their share of issues with long drives stalling out when they get inside their opponent's 20-yard line.

On the other side, the Saints' defense has been a top-five unit this season inside the red zone, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on just 48.4 percent of their trips inside the New Orleans 20-yard line.

The 49ers are the superior team on paper, and they happen to be red hot at the moment. Still, if they are held to field goals in the red zone, they ultimately invite a scenario where they allow New Orleans to hang around and potentially pull off an upset as a near-double-digit underdog on the road.