NFL

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR NFL PREVIEW Sun: New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco are on a roll having won three in a row but although they return to home territory here they do so off a long road trip and a Monday Night game at altitude in Mexico City.

Long road trips haven’t been kind to the Niners in the past and even after beating the Cardinals comprehensively this game has the air of one that might not be as easy as it looks on paper as the 49ers bid to keep up their playoff momentum. 

By the same token and to put a positive spin on events it was their most dominant victory of the year (38-10) having won their previous two contests to take them to 6-4 and a real run at the post season. QB Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t thrown a single interception in any of those three wins, throwing six touchdowns by contrast. He’s averaging 234.3 passing yards per game during this streak and has completed 73.2% of his attempts.

Th real shot in the arm to the 49er’s offence appears to have been the acquisition of former-Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (CMC) just before the trade deadline and he’s averaging 110.7 scrimmage yards over his past three starts for the 49ers. McCaffrey’s touch counts in his last three games with San Francisco are 26, 18, and 14 and he’s certain to see plenty of usage in a variety of ways against a Saints defense that is vulnerable to the run. McCaffrey needs one receiving touchdown to become the fourth player in NFL history to record 30 rushing TDs and 20 receiving TDs in their first six NFL seasons (Alvin Kamara, Chuck Foreman, and Lenny Moore are the others). Alongside CMC Elijah Mitchell continues to be an effective foil out of the backfield although he only played 22% of the 49ers offensive snaps on Monday night drawing just nine carries although he shouldn’t be written off in what is a plus matchup; Mitchell has predominately played with the 49ers firmly out in front which they could well be here.

With Garoppolo at QB San Francisco operate a more “game-managed” passing offence but it’s not as though Jimmy G doesn’t have some highly effective weapons to use in that facet of the game. TE George Kittle is riding an extremely hot streak at the moment with 80-plus yards in three of his last five appearances and four TDs over his last four and when he’s on such a roll it usually pays to support Kittle. The Swiss Army knife in the San Francisco armoury is WR Deebo Samuel although the arrival of CMC has tended to cut into some of his usage he remains an effective moving piece for San Francisco with his fellow WR Brandon Aiyuk having also found some form of late averaging 70 yards with five touchdowns in his last five games.

This is a highly efficient and effective San Francisco offence that has clicked into gear, has plenty of diverse pieces and faces a Saints defence that is riddled with injuries.

Inconsistency has been the word to describe the Saints season which has yet to see them put together back-to-back wins recording a 4-7 record and last week’s win (27-20) over the Rams really just papered over some of the cracks. Before last week’s win over the Rams, the Saints scored a total of 23 points combined in losses to the Ravens and Steelers, both of whom have top-10 run defences. Here they will confront another team that has been tough to run on this year with San Francisco having not allowed more than 67 rushing yards in each of their last three games. 

Saints QB Andy Dalton comes into this matchup off the back of one of his best games of the season but he’s only a couple of interceptions away from being benched in favour of Jameis Winston. Dalton could be under considerable pressure here also as the Saints will be missing three starting offensive lineman and I can imagine that the 49er’s pass rush led by DE Nick Bosa will be looking to add to the 10.5 sacks he’s already recorded this year. 

Another product of having such a beleaguered offensive line is that the run game has suffered and that will make it hard for Saints main running back Alvin Kamar to succeed especially against such a marauding San Francisco defence. It looks as though Kamara’s recent struggles could well continue here.

Taysom Hill is always an interesting moving part of the Saints offence and he’s hard to classify as one position with the Saints lining him up all over the place from quarterback to wide receiver and running back. It would appear this week that the Saints are going to try and use Hill more than they have recently so watch out for him on some specially designed plays. 

The Saints wide receiver corps remains a bit of a mixed bag and it’s hard to work out their usage at times. For instance, Jarvis Landry led the bunch in terms of snaps last week but drew only four targets and hasn’t exceeded six targets in an individual game all year. Rookie Chris Olave remains an exciting prospect but faces a tough gig here, whilst TE Juwan Johnson has had more than 50 receiving yards all year although he has five TDs in the Saints last five games and clearly remains a TD threat.

Since winning in Atlanta on the opening day by a single point the Saints have lost three straight on the road conceding 20 plus points each time and with four of their next five games on the road including visits to the Buccaneers, Browns and Eagles this is a brutal part of their schedule. San Francisco have won three straight games, with two of those wins coming by 17 or more points. The 49ers will look to dominate again because they should be able to do what they want on offence, while their defence suffocates New Orleans beleaguered and otherwise limited attack.

ANDY RICHMOND


ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


RECOMMENDED BETS

BACK Christian McCaffrey over +56.5 rushing yards 1.5pts at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK George Kittle to score a TD Anytime 1pt at 6/4 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK San Francisco 49ers to win by 7-12 inclusive 1pt at 7/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK San Francisco 49ers to win by 13-18 inclusive 1pt at 4/1 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


PROFIT/LOSS (NOV 2022): LOSS -21.31 points
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