Schefter discusses problems 'stacked' Saints present 49ers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The New Orleans Saints, like the 49ers, didn't look like the world-beaters many expected them to be through the first five games of the 2020 NFL season, with quarterback Drew Brees and Co. taking a 3-2 record into a Week 6 bye.
But after three wins in a row, including a blowout 38-3 victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in primetime just a week ago, New Orleans is beginning to resemble the NFC title contenders the majority of NFL pundits believed they would be. After the 49ers' 48-46 shootout win over the Saints at the Superdome last year, many had this one circled on the calendar when the schedules were released.
But a decimation of injuries and disparate quarterback play has left San Francisco 4-5, with the team's two most important offensive players -- George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo -- on injured reserve. New Orleans, on the other hand, is trending in the right direction, and is ready to utilize former 49ers Emmanuel Sanders and Kwon Alexander, both of whom now wear black and gold, on Sundays and will be eligible to play against San Francisco.
"You get Michael Thomas back, you get Emmanuel Sanders back," ESPN's Adam Schefter told KNBR's "Murph and Mac" on Thursday. "They're a good team, they're stacked, they're balanced, that team is built to win now, they're in cap trouble next year, they better win now, so, Saints are a force."
Sanders and Thomas, who was a first-team All-Pro wide receiver in 2019, both returned to the fold against Tampa Bay and combined for 11 targets in the win. Alexander was traded from the 49ers to the Saints on Nov. 2 for Kiko Alonso and a fifth-round draft pick. The Saints got a week-long roster exemption for Alexander, but that expires this week, and he could suit up for New Orleans on Sunday against the 49ers.
With a top-five scoring offense and a defense allowing the third-fewest yards of any NFL team this season, the addition of Alexander only adds to the difficulty presented to coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers on Sunday.
We'll find out if San Francisco can replicate the magic of last year's thrilling win in the Big Easy, even without the two guys most responsible for the game-clinching play.