Going into week ten of the NFL season, not a lot of people expected the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers to both be coming in with a .500 record. That is the case this Sunday though. The 49ers have been to the last three NFC Championship games, making it to one Superbowl where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. Last year they lost on the final play of the NFC Championship on a pass to the endzone that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman tipped into the hands of Malcolm Smith. This Sunday both teams look to get back on track and turn their season around. The Saints are looking to keep an 11 game home win streak alive, and the 49ers are fighting just to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Saints got off to a rough start this year. They opened the season with a loss to the Atlanta Falcons, who are a division rival, and one of the bottom teams in the league this year. At the quarter mark of the season the Saints had a 1-3 record. After two big wins against the Packers and fellow NFC South, Carolina Panthers, in just five days, the Saints are now looking like the Saints fans have come to expect.
The last few years the Saints have mostly used a running back by committee approach with Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, and Pierre Thomas. With injuries to both Robinson and Thomas, Ingram has had to carry the workload, and he has flourished in that role. In the last two Saints victories Ingram had a combined 272 yards and 3 touchdowns. The new ground attack, and the arrival of rookie Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks have reshaped the Saints offense.
The 49ers had a 2-2 record at the quarter mark. Riding a three game win streak they ran into the buzz saw known as the Denver Broncos. After getting embarrassed 42-17 by the Broncos, they looked to rebound against the Rams who that had previously beaten. Down 13-10 with only seconds left on the clock, Colin Kaepernick attempted a quarterback sneak to plunge the ball over the goal line. Not only did he not make it across the goal line, he fumbled the ball giving the rams the ball and letting them run out the clock.
So the 49ers are coming into this match up looking to snap a two game win streak and keep their playoff chances alive. They are currently third in their division behind the Seattle Seahawks at 5-3, and the Arizona Cardinals at 7-1. This game is crucial for the team from Santa Clara. The Saints are in a much weaker division. They are sitting in first place, and the other three teams do not seem to want to challenge them, as they all have losing records. They are however one of the more bizarre teams in the league. They are almost unstoppable at home in the Superdome, and look like a completely different team on the road. New Orleans is no longer competing for their division; they are playing for home field advantage in the playoffs.
With two of the perennial powerhouse teams going at it on Sunday, it looks to be an exciting game with a lot on the line. The Saints want home field advantage in the playoffs. The 49ers, win or lose, do not want to have to come back to New Orleans to play them again there. Game time is at 1pm eastern.
Commentary by Andy Lapic