When the 2012 schedule came out and I saw that the San Francisco 49ers would be paying a visit to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, I viewed it as the Saints biggest game of the regular season.
Not that it would matter more in terms of playoff standings at the end of the year, but just that it would be the most significant from a fans perspective.
My thought being that you have a former division rival coming into town after going through a long period of inferiority, back on the rise along with returning to their habits of breaking the Saints hearts. November 25th, 2012 would then be the day that Saints fans would get their revenge on all of those heartbreaking losses from both the 49ers glory days and last year. In addition, with the 3:25 kickoff to accommodate West Coast viewers, it would give Saints fans more time to get "juiced up," boosting their level of enthusiasm.
However, after watching the 49ers thoroughly dominate the Chicago Bears Monday night 32-7, it's obvious that getting revenge will not be an easy task. I still have faith that the Bless You Boys can do it, but they will certainly have their work cut out for them.
The 49ers pose challenges in many areas in which the Saints have struggled. Second year backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick impressed last week, connecting on 16 of 24 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns while filling in for Alex Smith. Tight End Vernon Davis, who was a headache for the Saints in last year's playoff game, was on fire Monday night and leads a talented 49ers receiving corps.
Should the Saints slow down the 49ers potent passing attack, they will still have their work cut out for them in stopping Jonathan Vilma's former high school and college teammate, running back Frank Gore. Similar to Pierre Thomas, Gore's ability to catch balls out of the backfield along with his combination of speed and power in running up the middle, make him a dangerous threat.
Ironically much of the responsibility in neutralizing Gore will be up to Vilma. I wonder if Vilma and Gore will try to catch up on each other's families between tackles? All kidding aside, I have no doubt that the Niners offense will put up yardage against the Saints defense and there will not be any anxiety-free moments until the game is over. The key will be if the Saints defense can continue to create turnovers while handing over real estate, just like the 49ers defense in last year's playoff loss.
And finally, God please help offensive tackles Jermon Bushrod and recent signee William Robinson keep 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith off of Drew Brees. Another strong rushing effort by Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram should help with that cause.