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
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham vs. 49ers safety Donte Whitner
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)
– Matthew Barrows