Inside the matchup:
» Kirwan: Brees, Saints might be slowed by 49ers
» Wyche: Running game crucial to Saints' machine
» Brooks: Strength vs. strenth in San Fran
» Wyche: Brees shows why he's king of Big Easy
» Harrison: Ranking the NFL's elite eight
» Photo essay: Divisional playoff memories
» Moments that defined playoff teams' seasons
Can San Francisco compete in a shootout? That's been the question all season. Maybe we find out here.
The extra week off should have helped 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis deal with his hamstring issues. You can just imagine Jim Harbaugh having the grounds crew saturate the field at Candlestick Park to try to slow down the timing of the Saints' quick-strike attack. New Orleans has struggled against the power run game, and Frank Gore will be looking to get downhill.
Drew Brees is pretty much unstoppable; you have to figure it's going to take at least 24-27 points for San Francisco to beat the Saints, even if its defense has a good game. The matchup of San Francisco's front seven -- one of the best, led by Justin Smith -- against the interior of the Saints offensive line -- led by the best guard combination in the league -- could dictate whether Brees is able to get into one of those zones where it seems like he literally cannot make a mistake.