The (6-2) and current NFC South Division-leading New Orleans Saints will be seeking their 6th straight win in a row this Sunday, when they host their visiting long-time conference rivals the (4-5) San Francisco 49ers at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Kickoff is set for 3:25 p.m. Central standard time and will be broadcast regionally to a majority of the nation by FOX; and the game can be viewed locally in NOLA on WVUE New Orleans FOX Channel 8.
The mission continues 😈 pic.twitter.com/Up0UXTNmR2
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) November 10, 2020
With that in mind, here are Big Easy Magazine’s 5 “Bold” Predictions for this highly-anticipated match-up. And as always: we’ll count them down first beginning with #5 and then work our way down to #1.
Starting first with….
#5. THE RAPID RISE OF SAINTS 4TH YEAR DEFENSIVE END TREY “T-REX” HENDRICKSON CONTINUES WITH A 3-SACK GAME
Hendrickson is having the “break-out” season finally that many observers and analysts thought that he could, after the Saints selected him originally with their second of two 3rd Round picks (the other was Alvin Kamara) in the team’s now legendary 2017 NFL Draft.
But despite splitting his playing time with fellow defensive end Marcus Davenport in the team’s first 8 games, the rapidly-rising young defensive star has recorded a team-high 7.5 sacks in the first eight games of this season; which currently ranks him 3rd overall in the entire NFL behind Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.
Hendrickson’s recent string of consecutive strong performances will continue this coming Sunday, when he terrorizes 49ers QB Nick Mullens for a total of 6 QB “pressures”, 3 QB “hits, a forced fumble, and 3 more sacks to add to his constantly-growing ‘official’ QB sack tally.
4. FORTY-NINERS BACK-UP QUARTERBACK NICK MULLENS — STARTING ONCE AGAIN IN PLACE OF INURED QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO — HAS A TOUGH OUTING
As most Saints fans might be aware: the entire roster of the 49ers franchise has been nearly DECIMATED by an entire slew of injuries, which notably includes nearly all of their entire starting offensive skill players (QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Raheem Mostert, All-Pro TE George Kittle, and WR “Deebo” Samuel).
Nevertheless, the 49ers have still played well enough at times to remain in the NFC Playoff hunt, as difficult or unlikely as that might seem at the moment. That said, if the 49ers show up looking to prove that they’re not ready just yet to throw in the proverbial towel on their 2020 Season, then it’s not all that far-fetched to believe that they could still manage to knock off the Saints on Sunday.
But despite the fears of some long-time Who Dat fans that have seen their fair share of Saints games in the past where the Black and Gold got embarrassed by an opponent’s back-up QB. this Sunday they’ll have no such issues —as they make life totally miserable at times for 49ers QB Nick Mullen — who will throw for less than 300 yards, is intercepted twice, loses a fumble. and is sacked a grand total of 5 times.
#3. AFTER A QUIET EFFORT IN HIS RETUEN TO THE STARTING LINE-UP LAST WEEK, SAINTS SUPERSTAR WR MICHAEL THOMAS “GOES OFF” WITH A DYNAMIC PERFORMANCE
Last week against in his long-anticipated return to the team’s starting line-up after missing 5 games, Saints superstar WR Michael Thomas had a somewhat ‘quiet’ performance with 5 catches for 51 yards.
But it was still very effective in the sense that Tampa Bay’s defense was so focused on stopping him personally, that it freed up all of the other Saints WR’s to make big plays throughout the game (which clearly contributed to their huge victory).
This Sunday against the 49ers, Thomas will “go off” — as he hauls in a whopping 12 receptions (on 14 total targets from QB Drew Brees) for 144 receiving yards and 2 TD’s — while providing New Orleans with somewhat of a cushion on the Superdome scoreboard.
#2. TOP-RATED FORTY-NINERS LINEBACKER FRED WARNER PLAYS LIKE A “MAN POSSESSED” — AND HIS STELLAR EFFORT ALLOWS SAN FRANCISCO TO KEEP THE SCORE CLOSE
Considered by many national analysts as one of the NFL’s very best players at the linebacker position, the former BYU (Brigham Young University) star has ascended quickly to a status that not too many would have predicted when he was originally drafted by the 49ers in the 3rd Round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Warner has clearly proven himself without much argument, to be one of the best young defenders throughout the entire League — regardless of where ever he lines up — along the 49ers defensive Front 7.
But playing most of his snaps at his usual middle linebacker position, the now-3rd-year linebacker has racked up 74 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 3 QB “hits”, 2 interceptions, and 3 PBU’s (passes broken up / defensed) through 9 total games this season.
This Sunday at the Superdome, Warner’s impressive season thus far will be boosted even further by a stat-line of 5 tackles (3 assisted), 2 QB “hits”, and a rare but key interception of Brees; as he virtually by himself (and nearly single-handedly) manages to help San Francisco keep the score close in the 2nd Half.
#1. THE GAME’S TURNING POINT COMES ALONG DURING THE 3RD QUARTER
If you’ve been following these Prediction articles here at Big Easy Magazine by some chance, then you already know that I’ve been predicting nearly every Saints game to “go down to the wire”, with them coming away with a narrow margin at the game’s very end, and mainly because that’s been the recent pattern that they have seemed to follow on a week-to-week / game-by-game basis.
However in all due respect to the 49ers franchise that is just several months removed from playing in the Super Bowl (a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs) last year. their roster right now has an entire litany of injured players — which incudes a handful of key starters on both sides of the football who are either out of action until next season in 2021, or a few players who still will be out for a few more weeks at the very least.
And with the Black and Gold coming off a dominant 38-3 victory over the Buccaneers last week in what easily was their best overall performance in every aspect (offense, defense, and special teams) in a very long time, it’s hard to imagine that an undermanned and out-matched 49ers team can defy the odds and “win on any given Sunday” as most teams that are labeled as the underdog typically do sometimes.
That said: the turning point of this game will most likely come during the 3rd Quarter — perhaps a “big play” made by either Thomas, superstar RB and current NFL Offensive MVP candidate Alvin Kamara, or possibly even TE Jared Cook (who last season had a huge performance against the 49ers and also will be motivated to make-up for his shaky performance last week).
That will give New Orleans a distinctive upper-hand and allow them eventually to build a double-digit lead, which subsequently allows the Saints to leave the Superdome with their 6th straight win in a row; as they continue to maintain their slight lead over Tampa Bay within the NFC South Division….
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 41, FORTY-NINERS 24
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius