The New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers are two of the top contenders in the NFC. In Week 11, the teams will play each other in a potential playoff matchup.
The Saints lead their division with a 7-2 record. On Sunday night, they bounced back from a loss to the New York Jets with their most dominant win in 2013. The Saints blew out the Dallas Cowboys, 49-17, to keep sole possession of first place in the NFC South.
The Saints are used to scoring a lot of points, but it’s usually because of Drew Brees and the passing offense. On "Sunday Night Football," New Orleans won with one of the best rushing performances this season.
"We just wanted to come out here on a national stage and just prove to everybody that we could play smash-mouth football and run the ball," said Mark Ingram, who ran for 145 of the team’s 242 rushing yards. "I've been waiting for a 100-yard game since I got in the league. ... The line just did a great job, just a fantastic job. They were just getting a hat on a hat, creating seams for us to run through. When they're dominating the line of scrimmage like that it makes our job easy."
The Saints almost had to share the top spot in their division with the Carolina Panthers because of their Week 11 opponent. Carolina went into San Francisco and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of last week, beating the 49ers, 10-9.
Prior to the contest, the 49ers had been one of the hottest teams in football. They were on a five-game winning streak, with each victory coming by at least 12 points. Most of those games were against mediocre competition, though, with the Arizona Cardinals having the only winning record at 5-4. Carolina’s victory boosted their record to 6-3.
The game against the Panthers reflected a trend that has followed the 49ers all season. Their offense has had trouble against the better teams in the league. In their second and third game, San Francisco scored a combined 10 points against the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts.
"For the most part, I don't really think they did anything that necessarily confused us," 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin said after the loss to the Panthers. "They only gave up nine points. It's hard not to give them credit. We expected it to be a physical game. Did we expect to only score nine points? Nah."
Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been able to replicate the success that led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. He’s had trouble helping San Francisco establish a strong aerial attack, throwing for just 1,675 yards. His nine touchdown passes are tied for 22nd with the man he replaced, Alex Smith.
Frank Gore has continued to produce, even as the passing game struggles. He’s rushed for 700 yards this season. Kaepernick did get a wide receiver back in Week 10 when Mario Manningham played for the first time since December.
The 49ers do have one of the best defenses in football. They’re expected to keep pace with the league’s best home team. In New Orleans, the Saints are three point favorites. They are undefeated in front of their home fans and have covered the point spread in every game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Las Vegas Betting Odds: New Orleans favored by 3 points
Over-Under: 47.5 points
Kickoff Time: 4:25 PM Eastern Time
TV Channel: FOX
Online Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket Max
Prediction: New Orleans 30, San Francisco 17