Much like the Green Bay Packers last season, the New Orleans Saints entered the postseason as the hot team.
The Packers, who won three road playoff games last year, were able to turn the momentum they gained late in the season last year into a Super Bowl championship.
On Saturday at Candlestick Park against the 49ers in an NFC divisional playoff game, New Orleans will see if it can keep pace.
“It’s a very formidable challenge for our team on both sides of the ball and special teams this week,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
The Saints have reeled off nine consecutive wins and have scored at least 42 points in their past four games, including last week’s 45-28 victory over the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round, to set up Saturday’s showdown.
Led by quarterback Drew Brees, who set a new NFL single-season passing record with 5,476 yards and a running game that averages 4.9 yards per carry, the Saints’ offense has been a runaway freight train with no signs of slowing down.
The 49ers possess one of the league’s stiffest defenses, which gives up just 14.3 points per game, but the biggest challenge this week for the Saints could be themselves and their past history.
The Saints are 0-4 all-time in road playoff games and were stunned last year as heavy favorites in Seattle against a 7-9 Seahawks team. All three of the Saints’ regular-season losses in 2011 came on the road, and of the five road wins, three were by five points or less.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton, for one, isn’t reading too much into the critique that his team isn’t the same away from the confines of the Superdome.
“I know a lot will be made of us playing on the road and the fact the Saints haven’t won a road playoff game, etc., etc.,” Payton said. “Each week we try to get ready and put out players in the best position. Get them prepared for the environment we are going to play in. I think we’ve traveled well.”
5,476 passing yards, 46 TDs, 14 INTs
1,313 total yards, 9 total TDs
1,143 yards receiving, 8 TDs
1,310 yards receiving, 11 TDs
95 tackles, 7½ sacks