FBG says: Tough matchup. As expected, the 49ers' run-dominant approach severely handcuffs the upside of its passing game. Jimmy Garoppolo has been passable as a Super Bowl-contending quarterback, completing 69% of his throws in full-on game manager mode. He's only topped 300 yards twice, though, with both coming against the Cardinals' awful pass defense. Through 12 games, those 2 matchups have accounted for 26% of his yardage and 38% of his touchdowns. There's some truly explosive talent mixed into this attack, particularly on the inside of the formation. Tight end George Kittle remains a matchup-proof fantasy star, and rookie slot man Deebo Samuel continues to make at least two or three splash plays a week. He put up 112 and 134 yards in Weeks 10 and 11, then caught long touchdowns in each of the last two. Emmanuel Sanders looms, as well, even though Samuel has cut deeply into his role. But without consistent volume in a conservative attack, their expectations need to be held in check. Game flow and gameplan will tell the tale; it's rare to see two or more erupt in the same week.
The New Orleans pass defense is generally a strong one, boasting a true shutdown cornerback and a handful of rising stars around him. Last week, they recorded 9 sacks and allowed Matt Ryan just 6.2 yards per attempt. The Saints have allowed big raw yardage in a handful of games, but much of it has been boosted by garbage time. And with top cornerback Marshon Lattimore back in the lineup, this is again a daunting matchup for opponents' No. 1 wideouts. Lattimore has done fantastic recent work against the likes of Amari Cooper (48 yards), D.J. Chark (43), and Mike Evans (69 over 2 games). On the other side, Eli Apple is fresh off one of his worst games as a pro, losing repeatedly to the Falcons' Calvin Ridley. It's unclear just how much impact they'll have Sunday, though, as the 49ers work the slots much more often than the boundaries. The burden will be on safeties Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell to control the seams and keep Jimmy Garoppolo's slot targets from producing after the catch.