Week 12 is only a little while away now, and with that, we have the 4-7 New Orleans Saints taking on the 6-4 San Francisco 49ers in a Sunday afternoon matchup. This matchup is basically the Saints’ last-ditch effort this season, and for the 49ers it is their chance to pull ahead of the Seattle Seahawks by a full game for the division lead if they can win and Seattle loses. This game could very well come down to the matchup of the Saints’ rushing defense vs the 49ers’ rushing offense, as when Christian McCaffrey previously met New Orleans, he had 25 rushes for 108 yards, and an additional 2 receptions for 7 yards earlier this season. So, in this article, we will cover how these two units have performed so far this season, and then predict how they will perform against one another this Sunday.
How have these units performed in 2022?
Starting off with the Saints’ rushing defense, it has really struggled in recent weeks and is now one of the bottom 10 in the NFL in most statistics for rush defense. Missed tackles and large gashing plays have been the issue for this unit, as they have really struggled in both departments. They have allowed the 7th most rushing yards (1,453), T-9th highest YPC allowed (4.6), T-11th most rushing touchdowns allowed (11), and the 7th most rushing first downs (80). The one statistic they have been performing well in is first down success rate, which they have only allowed the 17th highest at 25.5%. Overall, a unit that has seen good games (i.e. against the Las Vegas Raiders or Tampa Bay Buccaneers) but has faltered in many others (i.e. against the Carolina Panthers or Atlanta Falcons).
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers’ run game has been very wishy-washy over the course of the season but has been stronger obviously with the addition of CMC. They rank 15th in rush yards (1,272), 15th in YPC (4.5), T-11th most rushing touchdowns (10), T-10th most rushing first downs (75) and have the 10th highest rushing first down success rate (26.7%). One category they struggle in is fumbling on rushing downs, with 6 on the season (T-5th most), 1 of which comes from McCaffrey in his 4 games there so far.
How will these units perform against each other?
Overall, the consensus here would be that San Francisco stacks up better on paper and in the eye test, which is reasonable to assume for this game. CMC lit up the Saints front 7 previously this year with the Carolina Panthers, and now has a chance to prove himself against them again. Does that mean the 49ers will absolutely torch the Saints’ run defense? Maybe, maybe not, but the last few games being a benchmark would probably lead most to believe that it’s a yes.
The 49ers having Trent Williams makes them a threat in the run game at all times and will likely make life difficult for Cam Jordan to produce as much as he typically does. Look for Kaden Elliss and Demario Davis to get involved in the run game even more than typically, as linebacker help will be almost required to have hope of containing CMC against this OL. Overall, the 49ers definitely look better here on paper.