Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
Before I dive in Saints-49ers game a final thought on LSU-Alabama. My wife said, 'It was like getting stabbed to death in a phone booth with a butter knife. A horrible death in which the only thing you hope for is for everything to turn black as soon as possible.'
The aftermath is not pretty. LSU fans want answers, Bobby Hebert is ripping Les Miles on any national radio show that will have him and I think Bama just kicked their 300th field goal.
You've probably already read or seen all the explanations how Nick Saban out coached Les Miles and it's completely true but the game really boiled down to one simple fact: Both teams headed into the game with huge questions at quarterback and Alabama had theirs prepared and he played the best game of his life in the biggest game of his life, Jordan Jefferson did not.
Every LSU fan knew what happened Monday was a possibility. We buried such thoughts deep in the corner of our minds where we keep thoughts of old people naked, Carrot Top, and that time your wife made you sit through 'Eat, Pray, Love' but it WAS THERE. We saw it against Georgia.
The Tigers quarterback situation was a problem in August and it wasn't so much as solved during the season as it was managed. Jordan Jefferson seemed to completely fall apart in pressure spots (See Ole Miss and Tennessee 2009). Jarrett Lee was pretty good when the Tigers could steam roll teams running the football but in the first Alabama game looked exactly like Jordan Jefferson did in the second.
Miles probably couldn't shake the memory of a completely dazed Lee staring off into the abyss after throwing his second interception in Tuscaloosa. If Miles had inserted Lee and starting throwing the ball downfield could it have lit a fire under the Tigers? Yes, but remember fire is a dangerous thing and might have just burned LSU to the ground. You say anything would have better than the slow tortured death the Crimson Tide delivered. Fair enough but the only thing Jarrett Lee would have changed was time of death.
I hate to say it but Alabama was just better. Saban put the game in the hands of his young quarterback AJ McCarron and he delivered. Miles was hoping his quarterback wouldn't be too big a factor in the game.
The Tigers will be preseason top 5 and should be better at quarterback so I'll hold off on stoning Les Miles in the town square. LSU's season was a great movie with a horrible ending.
Last Week: 2-2
Saints (-3.5) at San Francisco: San Francisco's defense is nasty and they'll have some success against the Saints. They have allowed the 2nd fewest points and have the 7th most sacks. They'll at times get to Drew Brees and the Saints will actually have to punt the ball. Crazy right?
The key for the Saints and Drew Brees is to realize it's ok and not get careless. The Saints must win the turnover battle. Brees was great against the Lions but he was fortunate he didn't throw any interceptions.
In games where the Saints defense allows 20 points and they lose the turnover battle they are 7-25 with Brees at quarterback. I expect the 49ers to score 20 points so the turnovers will decide this game.
Before Calvin Johnson embarrassed them, the Saints defense had been on an impressive run of taking away a team's #1 offensive option. I think Jim Harbaugh will let Alex Smith throw more than usual so the secondary will be an unlikely key for the defense. I'm more worried about the 49ers excellent special teams than Frank Gore.
For Saints fans of certain age San Francisco and Candlestick Park are a special place of pain because we remember when the 49ers were the Kings of the NFL. They crushed the Saints when the 49ers played well and beat the Saints when the Saints were at their best. It was a nearly 25-year run of twice-a-year misery.
This game will at times remind you of LSU/Alabama in that I believe for stretches the 49ers like Alabama will dominate the game but not the scoreboard. The difference between LSU and the Saints is Brees.
While I think Brees will struggle quite allot in this game he won't turn the ball over. San Francisco will be in almost complete control of it midway through the second half and then the Saints will hit a big play.
I'll guess Pierre Thomas on a screen pass. Then a rocking Candlestick or whatever they call it now will look up and say, 'How in the #@^& ARE WE ONLY UP 20-13? We have completely dominated this game.'
To all the die-hard Saints fans over 35 you will enjoy the end of this game and have flashbacks to Joe Montana ripping the Saints guts out in the Superdome at the same time.
The bill for Joe Montana ruining our childhoods will come due for San Francisco fans so I hope they enjoy the three hour car ride home out of the world's worst designed stadium parking.
New England (-13.5) vs. Denver: To all the crazy Tim Tebow supporters out there you do realize what you saw against the Steelers is probably his ceiling right? He threw for a ton of yards but still only completed 10 passes. This game could actually be interesting for about a half. The Patriots hired the guy who drafted Tebow, Josh McDaniels, this week so expect CBS to show him 900 times during the broadcast. DO NOT PLAY ANY TYPE OF DRINKING GAME INVOLVLING CAMERA SHOTS OF MCDANIELS. It will lead to certain death.
Houston (+7.5) at Baltimore: Houston's season is already a success and I think they'll play really loose in Baltimore. The Ravens are desperate to get to the Super Bowl with their aging defense and I think they feel more pressure than any other team. There is always that one home team whose fans are in full-blown panic mode in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. I'm looking at you Baltimore.
The Texans will stuff Ray Rice and Joe Flacco will fail spectacularly. I just can't figure out how Houston scores 24 points. Oh yeah, Flacco gifts them 10.
Green Bay (-7.5) vs. New York: Listening to Atlanta get demolished by the Giants was a great way to drive back to Houston on Sunday but let's not get carried away. Mike Smith is Marty Schottenheimer 2.0 and he'll get to face the original if Tampa hires Marty to be their next coach.
By the way I really hate that hire by Tampa because while Marty Schottenheimer can't win playoff games he has won everywhere he's coached. He did it in Washington for crying out load.
Green Bay wins this in a walk.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.