at New Orleans
Saints by 3
49ers 6-3, Saints 7-2
FOX40 (Joe Buck play-by-play, Troy Aikman color), 680, 1320
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Graham’s 805 receiving yards leads the Saints and is fifth in the NFL. When he lines up as a true tight end at the end of the offensive line, inside linebacker Patrick Willis will be responsible for shadowing him. Just as often, however, Graham will be split wide as a receiver. In those scenarios, the coverage will fall to a cornerback or safety. Saints quarterback Drew Brees will be looking for scenarios in which the 5-foot-9 Whitner is covering the 6-7 tight end.
THREE KEYS TO GAME
• The key to stopping Brees: collapse the quarterback’s pocket. The 49ers will have Aldon Smith for that task but perhaps not Ray McDonald, who is dealing with a high-ankle sprain. Look for Tony Jerod-Eddie to make his first start at McDonald’s left defensive end spot.
• Vernon Davis is likely to be back today after suffering a concussion last week. Still, the team could use more production from No. 2 tight end Vance McDonald, who has just six catches this season.
• The 49ers reshuffled their return game last week against Carolina, but it was only marginally better than when Kyle Williams was the primary return man. They will need a boost from special teams if they are to keep pace with the Saints’ high-scoring offense.
DT Ray McDonald (ankle), WR Quinton Patton (foot)
TE Garrett Celek (hamstring)
TE Vernon Davis (concussion), WR Mario Manningham (knee), RB Bruce Miller (hamstring), S Eric Reid (concussion), LB Dan Skuta (foot)
CB Tarell Brown (knee), DT Quinton Dial (ankle), RB Frank Gore (ankle), G Mike Iupati (knee), P Andy Lee (neck), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)
S Kenny Vaccaro (concussion)
TE Jimmy Graham (elbow), S Roman Harper (knee), DE Akiem Hicks (back), DE Cameron Jordan (ankle), S Malcolm Jenkins (knee), LB Curtis Lofton (hamstring), DT Tyrunn Walker (knee), TE Benjamin Watson (concussion)