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Saints Expert Weighs In On Saints vs 49ers

Each week, Covers.com does a piece called Monday Night Debate in which they mull over issues surrounding the primetime showdowns featured on Monday Night Football. For this week’s game, yours truly and a 49er expert were asked to weigh in on the game by answering a few questions from the Covers.com staff. Here’s what transpired from the standpoint of the Saints.

Covers.com:  The Saints didn’t run much in the first half against the Vikings but then went to the ground for their attack in the second half. Is this the way bettors should expect to see the Saints offense roll in 2010 – pass to get the lead and run in the second half? Or do you think they just stayed away from running the ball because of Minnesota’s reputation for being a great run-stopping team?

S.J.:  This is typically the way the Saints offense prefers to operate. They like to jump out to an early lead and then run the ball to chew up the clock. Minnesota’s defense was pretty stout in the first half of the season opener, but the Saints’ half-time adjustments allowed them to come out and dominate on the ground in the second half. Situations like that play right into Sean Payton’s scheme of things.

Covers.com:  New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams used a 3-4 for a lot o snaps against the Vikings. Is that the club’s new base defense? If so, how important is it that DT Sedrick Ellis stays healthy?

S.J:  No, I don’t think the 3-4 is the new base defense for the Saints. However, I do expect to see more of it this year, particularly in games in which there is a genuine run threat (like Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Michael Turner, etc.).

Gregg Williams isn’t one who typically shows his hand; his defense thrives on catching opposing offenses off guard. The 3-4 allows him to throw a wrinkle or two at opposing QBs and their offensive lines.

Sedrick Ellis is a vital part of the success of it all. In 2009, the run defense with Ellis allowed 554 yards (3.98 yards per carry) in the 5 1/2 games in which he played. In just the four after he got injured, they were gashed for 603 yards (5.24 yards per carry) by opposing rushers. I think these numbers speak volumes for just how important his staying healthy is to clogging up that middle against the run.

Covers.com:  Should bettors be worried about kicker Garrett Hartley? He almost took away the cover from Saints backers in Week 1 all by himself.

S.J:  I wouldn’t worry too much about Hartley just yet. I think that with all of his success during the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was just overly anxious to come out and contribute to this year’s efforts, thereby rushing his kicks (although he did make both PATs). I think he’ll be more settled from this point on and should be back on target.

Covers.com:  What the area do you think the Saints can best exploit the 49ers?

S.J.:  In the secondary. The 49ers are thin at DB, to say the least. I expect there to be major matchup problems with the Saints’ three and four-receiver sets. We know that their run defense is extremely tough, but I’d like to add as just a note, watch for the play of guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks to open some lanes for Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.

S.J.:  Final score prediction: Saints 38, San Fran 24

I also have a sneaky suspicion that Reggie Bush is going to be a huge factor in this game.  To see what the 49ers expert had to say, you have to read the full article at http://www.covers.com/articles/articles.aspx?theArt=204191&article .  Trust me, his final score prediction is different than mine.  Check it out!


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