San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints: Watch Live TV Stream Online For Free; Preview
Darren Sproles is expected to return on Sunday after missing three games with a broken hand. (Photo: Reuters)
The 49ers sit at 7-2-1 on the season after a 32-7 victory over the Chicago Bears last weekend. San Francisco has particularly been strong on the defensive side of the ball this year, ranking in the top 10 in the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed. The squad has also not allowed more than 26 points in a game all season.
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The squad has also been fairly consistent on offense this year, ranking in the middle of the pack in both yards and points scored per game. But the 49ers put up one their most impressive showings of the season last week against a Bears team also ranked in the top 10 in both passing and rushing defense.
Backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in that contest in place of an injured Alex Smith. Smith was cleared to return to the field this week, but coach Jim Harbaugh instead named Kaepernick the starter for this weekend's game.
The former second-round draft pick should theoretically thrive on Sunday against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Saints are 31st in the league in passing yards allowed and 27th in scoring defense. They also struggled earlier in the season against running quarterbacks similar to Kaepernick. New Orleans gave up 360 total yards to Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III on opening weekend and then allowed a career-high 71 yards rushing to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton a week later.
The Saints offense has had no such issues this season, ranking fifth in the league in points per game. The squad has scored at least 28 points in three straight contests after being held to just 14 in a loss to the Denver Broncos earlier this year.
Unsurprisingly, New Orleans has done much of this damage through the air. Quarterback Drew Brees leads a passing attack ranked third in the league in yards per game.
Brees has been without one of his primary targets, Darren Sproles, for the past three games while the running back nursed a broken hand. But he is listed as probable for today's contest with the 49ers, according to nola.com. Sproles is fourth on the team in receptions and tied for third in touchdowns.
This game marks a playoff rematch from last season, when the 49ers defeated the Saints in thrilling fashion during the divisional round. The Saints led by three with less than 90 seconds left, but Smith threw a game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis with nine seconds remaining to seal the win.