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New Orleans Saints vs San Francisco 49ers: game preview

Kickoff is set for noon CT

Following an impressive 28-10 win at the Carolina Panthers for their second consecutive victory on Thursday night, the New Orleans Saints (4-4) will look to start the second half of the 2014 season on a winning note and extend their winning streak when they host the San Francisco 49ers (4-4) Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints will be looking to stretch their win streak to three games and post a winning mark for the first time in 2014. After starting the season 2-4, New Orleans moved into first place in the NFC South with the win over the Panthers. A win on Sunday, would continue to build their lead on Carolina, who plays Philadelphia on Monday Night Football.

The Saints have not only won their last two contests, but they have done so in convincing fashion, outscoring their opponents 72 to 33 and 42 to 17 in the second half. They have fashioned their move into first place in their division with an explosive offense, a steady defense committed to stopping the run and solid special teams play.

During this two-game run, the offensive line has done an outstanding job in blocking for RB Mark Ingram, who has rushed for 172 and 100 yards respectively in the two contests, marking the first time a Saint has rushed for at least 100 yards in two consecutive games since Deuce McAllister in 2006. QB Drew Brees has tossed for 608 yards and four touchdowns, while throwing only one interception. Five different offensive players have scored touchdowns during the run, including two apiece by Ingram, TE Jimmy Graham and rookie WR Brandin Cooks and one apiece by Brees and TE Josh Hill.

Defensively after some struggles early in the season, New Orleans has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since week four.The Saints close the book on the first half of the season with the second-ranked offense in the NFL, third passing and seventh rushing. Brees has completed 229 of 329 passes for 2,524 yards, 15 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 97.1 passer rating. Ingram leads the team in rushing despite missing three games, carrying 88 times for 431 yards (4.9 avg.) with six touchdowns. Graham leads the team in receiving with 46 grabs for 518 yards and five touchdowns.

New Orleans' stingy run defense is ranked 10th in the NFL and has allowed only one 100-yard rusher this season. Dating back to their days as division rivals in the old NFC West, the 49ers have traditionally ranked among the Saints' toughest foes with San Francisco holding a 46-25-2 advantage in the series. The Saints have only played the Atlanta Falcons (90) on more occasions than the 49ers (73). The Saints have won seven of the last eight regular season meetings between the clubs.

With a victory, the Saints would be able to claim their first three-game winning streak since between weeks 10-12 of 2013. In the four-month regular season, November has traditionally been the month where the Saints have separated themselves from opponents since 2009. Since the season they won Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints have posted a 17-3 record in the month, including going 3-1 in 2013.

After advancing to the NFC Championship game for the third consecutive season in 2013, San Francisco is very much alive in a very competitive NFC West race.

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