When the Saints march into San Fran on the national stage, we all think the Saints should bulldoze through the 49ers with the greatest of ease. Yet somehow, someway, I have a very uneasy feeling coming into this game. I can't shake the feeling that this is about as big of a trap game as one exists. I texted Dave about how uneasy this game made me earlier in the week. His reponse? "Me too!" I know some of you are out there rolling your eyes at the old cliche, thinking "here we go again with the classic trap game talk", but I almost never use it. I'm not one of those guys that throws the concept out as a buzz word every time a heavy favorite should be careful overlooking their much weaker opponent. And before you blast me for predicting that the Saints will lose this game, remember that this was my original prediction when the schedule came out which included the Saints finishing 11-5 and atop the NFC South. Make the jump to find out why I feel so uneasy about this game.
- The Saints are the defending Super Bowl champs. They just opened the season in a rematch of the 2009 season NFC Championship game, and they just beat the Vikings again. They're 1-0, and no one expects them to lose this game. For the fifth consecutive game (including the playoff games last year), the Saints will share the national sporting spotlight with no one but their opponent. This time it's Monday Night Football, but it's gotten to the point where the Saints are used to having all eyes on them. Been there, done that. People talk about Drew Brees as if he's the best quarterback in the league. Reggie Bush has been the talk of the country all week with the Heisman ordeal.
- Then you've got the 49ers. They just got embarrassed 31-6 by a Seattle Seahawks team that most people don't see winning more than six games. Alex Smith, their starting quarterback, looks horrible, and his backup is David Carr. It's not too dissimilar from the quarterback situation LSU is going through. Sure, Jordan Jefferson is terrible, but when you know the alternative in Jarrett Lee only gets worse, what's your motivation of doing anything besides tolerating the continuous spots of horrendous play your quarterback displays? The bright spot for the 9ers was supposed to be their defense, but then they gave up 31 to a pedestrian offense in Seattle playing their first game under a new coaching regime. The 49ers haven't even had a winning season since 2002.
So sure, it's just another awesome team facing another poor team. But consider these circumstances:
- The game is in San Francisco on the national stage.
- This national stage is ho-hum for the Saints, and unique for the 49ers.
- The Saints' strong points are offense and pass defense.
- The 49ers strong points are running the football and run defense.
- The Saints can't get any higher, and the 49ers can't get much lower.
- The Saints can afford to lose this game, looking ahead to the Atlanta Falcons next week.
- The 49ers can't afford to drop to 0-2.
So if I'm the 49ers' coaching staff, here's what I'm preaching: pound Frank Gore, over and over and over and over. If their run to pass ratio isn't 5 to 1, then they've failed their gameplan. The Saints are strongest on offense and weakest stopping the run, which the 49ers coincidentally do best. Turns out running the ball runs the clock and keeps the opposing team off the field too. The 49ers know they're an inferior team. They're not going to get cute and try to catch the Saints off guard with a whacky plan of attack. They are going to run the football. Make no mistake about it. If the 49ers fall into a 14-0 hole, or worse, then they are in huge trouble. If they jump out to an early two score lead, though, they'll be tough to come back on. I believe the 49ers will play this game like it's their last chance all season to let America know they aren't as bad as what they showed last Sunday. Their coach is Mike Singeltary, and there is no way he won't have them prepared. They will play this game, on the national stage, like it's the Super Bowl. Of course the Saints can handle it, but there's just no way they'll have the same intensity coming in. They've played in too many big games over the last 12 months for this Monday Night game to mean half as much.
Final score: 49ers 27 - Saints 24
I hope I'm wrong, but I've just got a feeling... and by the way, other than Carolina in week 17 last year, this is the only other time I've picked the Saints to lose the week of the game.
Do you disagree?