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Saints' potent offense meets 49ers' stingy defense

Inside the matchup:

Fast facts:

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.

San Francisco can't be one-dimensional on offense. Receiver Michael Crabtree must have a breakout game and really compete deep to provide a complement to Vernon Davis. The 49ers might have to open it up more than usual and allow Alex Smith to take a few chances.

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.

The Saints' run game hasn't missed a beat with Mark Ingram out, but this is the best run front in the NFL. Of course, with Darren Sproles in the screen game, and Brees under center, they might not need to run the ball much, anyway.

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