49ers vs. Saints Betting Picks, Predictions & Odds: How to Play This Key NFC Showdown

49ers vs. Saints Betting Picks, Predictions & Odds: How to Play This Key NFC Showdown article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas

  • The San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints matchup comes with big NFC playoff implications.
  • Our experts preview the pivotal Week 14 NFL matchup, featuring betting odds and picks below.
  • You'll also find analysis of the biggest mismatch and Sean Koerner's projected spread.

49ers at Saints Picks, Predictions & Betting Odds

  • Odds: Saints -2.5
  • Over/Under: 44.5
  • Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

The Seattle Seahawks unseated the San Francisco 49ers from atop the NFC West. Now Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. are looking to regain the division lead, but that quest starts with a pivotal matchup against another conference contender: The New Orleans Saints.

So where's the betting value in this key NFC showdown?

Our experts preview the matchup, complete with a pick.

49ers-Saints Injury Report

Which team is healthier? 49ers

The health of the 49ers offense is trending upward. The only receiver on the injury report is Dante Pettis (knee). George Kittle (knee/ankle) has been limited in practice, but that appears to be his new normal. And Matt Breida (ankle) has returned to full practice.

That said, the defensive side does have injuries. Safety Jaquiski Tartt (ankle) has yet to practice, which isn't a great sign. Dee Ford (quad/hamstring) didn’t play last week, but he has returned to limited to practice. They'd love to have him back considering he's one of their best pass-rushers.

The Saints, meanwhile, would love to have offensive lineman Terron Armstead (ankle) back against this 49ers' pass-rush — especially since offensive lineman Andrus Peat (arm) is expected to be out another couple weeks after suffering a broken arm in mid-November. Justin Bailey

Note: Info as of Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.

Biggest Mismatch

49ers Pass Defense vs. Saints Secondary Receiving Options

It's no surprise that the quarterbacks who have had the most success against the 49ers — Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson — are all capable of making plays with their legs. The 49ers play suffocating coverage, allowing the lowest completion percentage (60.5%) this side of New England (55.3%). It forces quarterbacks to hold the ball until the 49ers pass rush — which owns a league-leading 31.4% pressure rate — gets home.

To put in perspective just how well the 49ers are covering, consider that four of their cornerbacks have top-20 Pro Football Focus grades: Richard Sherman (third), Emmanuel Moseley (11th), Akhello Witherspoon (13th) and K'Waun Williams (20th). They also have a top-three safety in Jimmy Ward, while linebackers Fred Warner (15th) and Dre Greenlaw (17th) rank top-20 in coverage.

Richard Sherman
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Richard Sherman

Drew Brees gets the ball out in 2.37 seconds — the second-fastest in the NFL, per PFF — but his lack of reliable options behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara could hurt in this game. The 49ers are more capable than most of slowing down Thomas and Kamara; San Francisco ranks sixth in Football Outsiders' DVOA vs. No. 1 wide receivers and first vs. running backs. And if the 49ers can cause Brees to hesitate and come off of his first read, the Saints could be in trouble.

Jared Cook has come on of late, but he's caught more than three passes in a game only three times all season, and the 49ers are ranked first in DVOA vs. tight ends.

Robert Saleh's defense also rates seventh-best vs. No. 2 wide receivers and 10th-best vs. other wide receivers. Ted Ginn's catch rate is down to a five-year low of 52.2% and he's failed to catch even one pass on three separate occasions, including twice over the past four games with Brees. Ginn hasn't topped three catches or 48 yards since Week 1. Tre’Quan Smith, meanwhile, has managed to draw only 13 targets on 184 routes run for a minuscule 7.0% target per route run rate — a telltale sign that he's struggling to get open.

Per our Bet Labs data, the 49ers are 4-0 against the spread as road underdogs this season. If they're able to pull off the upset and maintain that perfect mark, the Saints' lack of pass-catching depth behind their superstars will likely be at the forefront among reasons why. Chris Raybon

Sean Koerner's Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Saints -2
  • Projected Total: 45

The Saints opened as 3.5-point favorites, which I felt was way too high, but anticipated a line like that would divide action evenly considering the 49ers have the second-highest Pythagorean win differential of the week (+2.6) over the Saints.

All that to say it’s a bit odd to see the public all over the 49ers here with 65% of the action coming in on San Francisco (see live public betting data here), causing the line to crash all the way down to -2.5. That sort of drastic line move through the key number of -3 involved sharp action as well.

Any value that was on the 49ers has evaporated, so this is a no bet for me.Sean Koerner

Expert Pick

Stuckey: Under 44.5

This game has massive NFC playoff implications, so these teams should play a little closer to the vest. I also think the matchups will dictate a heavy rushing attack from both.

The Saints' offensive line is a huge asset, but they're just not healthy up front on the left side, which spells trouble against Nick Bosa and a 49ers defensive front that can generate pressure without blitzing as well as any team. That's partly why their secondary has performed so well — not only do they have talent and communicate extremely well, they can all sit in coverage while the defensive line generates pressure.

Saleh, who comes from the Pete Carroll tree, has morphed this defense into its own identity with many more unique and disguised looks than just a Cover 3 shell. They're running a lot more Cover 4 and just don't allow anything deep … at all. San Fran has allowed only 19 passes of 20 or more yards on the season, the fewest in the NFL.

Don't expect this very slow-moving Saints offense to get much down the field.

New Orleans is very efficient on offense, but I don't expect anything explosive against this San Fran defense. And as a result of the mismatches up front, Sean Payton may have to go with heavier sets and attack San Fran with a heavier run script. That should keep the clock moving for an offense that doesn't play fast (25th in pace in neutral situations).

On the other side of the ball, the Saints secondary can match up with the 49ers receivers on the outside. New Orleans can also generate pressure to fluster Jimmy Garoppolo and is good enough against the run (sixth in rush defense DVOA) to slow San Fran down on the ground.

In a matchup that favors both defenses, expect heavy rushing attacks and lots of short, quick passes from two quarterbacks who get rid of the ball quickly.

This line looks about right given some of the injury news.

We do talk a lot about the good fortune of the Seahawks this season, but the Saints have had some similar luck (albeit with a backup QB for a good portion of the season). They've recovered 68.42% of fumbles, highest in NFL, and you can't expect that to continue forever.

The San Fran defense can shut down this New Orleans offense and do enough on offense to stay in this game to the very end. The 49ers are the best teaser piece on the board. Call it 20-17 someone.

In a matchup of top-10 defenses that can generate a lot of pressure and match up on the outside, the under is the play here. I'll be playing the game under (anything over 43) and sprinkling some on the first-half under as well (anything over 21.5).

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Stuckey is 296-234-7 (55.8%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

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