This weekend in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs the New Orleans Saints will square off against the San Francisco 49ers, and all anyone can talk about is New Orleans' offense versus San Francisco’s defense. However, people need to remember that New Orleans will have to play defense, and San Francisco will have to play offense. This article examines who has the advantage in the match-up of New Orleans' defense versus San Francisco’s offense.


New Orleans Defense
New Orleans finished the regular season ranked 30th in pass defense, allowing an average of 259.8 yards. They gave up 24 passing touchdowns, and allowed at least one passing touchdown in all but one game during the regular season. Additionally, New Orleans was one of three teams that finished the season with nine interceptions, only two teams had fewer.

In New Orleans’ Wild Card win over the Detroit Lions, New Orleans allowed Matt Stafford to throw for 380 yards and three touchdowns.
New Orleans’ rushing defense fared better, finishing the season ranked 12th. However, the team did allow 11 rushing touchdowns, and 14 plays of 20+ yards on the season.

New Orleans tries to win games by scoring many points, and usually they succeed. However, in their three losses this season, opposing defenses did enough to hold off New Orleans’ offense, and the defense was not able to get the job done, giving up 99 points.

San Francisco Offense  
San Francisco finished 29th this season in passing, averaging only 183.1 yards per game. Despite that statistic, Alex Smith had one of the best seasons of his career, throwing for a career high 3,144 yards, and a career high 61.3 completion percentage. Additionally, Smith passed for 17 touchdowns while throwing only five interceptions.

San Francisco finished eighth in rushing offense, averaging 127.8 yards per game. Running back Frank Gore rushed for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns, and the team as a whole rushed for 2,044 yards and fourteen scores. Additionally, Gore rushed for 100 yards or more in five games this season, while the team as a whole scored at least one rushing touchdown in 12 games this season.

San Francisco’s defense helps the team remain in games, but the offense is able to hold their own and get the job done.

Advantage

In the end, it is hard to give the advantage to either side, because statistics can sometimes be misleading. While New Orleans’ pass defense did poorly in the regular season, in the Wild Card tilt, they eventually were able to hold off Stafford and the Lions, while recording two interceptions.

Similarly, Smith threw for at least 150 yards in a game 13 times during the regular season, while also throwing at least one touchdown in 11 different games. Additionally, fans can give the praise to the defense or the offense, either way though, San Francisco went 13-3 on the season.

Smith should be able to match Brees in number of yards and touchdowns, therefore, this game will most likely be decided by the defenses. All indications is that San Francisco holds the defensive edge, and it could be that edge that gives the 49ers the win.