The 14th Sunday of the 2019 NFL season kicks off with perhaps the highest-stakes matchup of the week when the San Francisco 49ers travel to New Orleans to face the Saints in a 1 p.m. EST game that will be broadcast by Fox in most markets across the country. Both teams come into the game at 10-2, but the 49ers will need to avoid their first back-to-back losses of the season to hold that top spot, after falling to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.
In fact, San Francisco, which held on as the last undefeated team in the NFL until a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10, would plunge all the way to the fifth seed in the NFC if they lose to the Saints, due to their overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in that week 10 contest. Seattle faces the struggling Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football to cap off the day.
Though they must face future Hall of Fame Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who leads the NFL with a pass completion rate of 73.8 percent, the 49ers defense is expected to regroup after being largely baffled by the footwork of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson last week, according to Sports Illustrated. The 49ers pass rush should have a "field day" against the largely immobile Brees, SI opined.
Despite their defense that has allowed just 15.25 points per game — good for second-best in the NFL — the 'Niners have been saddled with the underdog label by oddsmakers ahead of the game. San Francisco has lost two of its last four games and will be playing on the road for the second straight week. As a result, the Saints are favored by 2-and-a-half points, according to SI.com.
But away from home, the 49ers have gone 4-2 against the spread this season.
Among NFL experts surveyed by NFL Pickwatch, the Saints are also favored, though not by massively overwhelming numbers. About two of three experts surveyed, 66 percent, say New Orleans will win the game, while 34 percent are going with the visiting 49ers.
The 49ers offense led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been prolific this year, currently ranking second in the NFL at 29.1 points per game, seven spots ahead of the Saints who have tallied 24.8 per game.
The Saints, while fighting for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, are facing considerably less pressure in the game. Their Thanksgiving Day win over the Atlanta Falcons wrapped up a third consecutive NFC South title. But in the NFC West, San Francisco and Seattle are neck-and-neck for the division championship — and those two teams play each other a second time on the season's final day.
San Francisco has not won the NFC West title since 2012, when the 'Niners advanced all the way to the Super Bowl, ultimately losing to Baltimore.