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Early Week 9 Preview: 49ers vs. Saints

View images of the key players on San Francisco's eighth regular season opponent, the New Orleans Saints.

The San Francisco 49ers will follow their bye with a Week 9 home game against the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans (3-4) has rebounded from an 0-3 start and have won three of its past four contests. The Saints most impressive win came in Week 8 when they topped the Seattle Seahawks at home, 25-20. The 49ers will be looking to end their six-game losing streak.

Here is an early preview of the matchup as both teams begin their week of preparation.

All-time Record: 47-25-2 (1-0 in the postseason)

San Francisco has won three of the last four meetings between the two clubs. That includes a 36-32 victory in the divisional playoff round of the 2011 season.

Previous Matchup: 49ers 27 - 24 Saints (Nov. 9, 2014 in New Orleans)

This back-and-forth contest went down to the wire. Pierre Garçon scored on a 9-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. San Francisco, however, trailed 24-21 with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Phil Dawson drilled a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime and a 35-yarder to give the 49ers the 27-24 win.

The Saints best player: Drew Brees

But you already knew that. Brees continues to be the maestro of Sean Payton's high-powered offense. The Saints are averaging just south of 30 points per game (29.57), second most in the league. Brees is currently averaging 337.9 passing yards per game. That's not only the most among NFL signal-callers, but it's also the second-highest clip of Brees' illustrious, 16-year career. The quarterback has 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions through seven games in 2016.

Who You Should Get to Know: Michael Thomas

Thomas has proved to be a suitable replacement for longtime Saints wideout Marques Colston. The 2016 second-round pick out of Ohio State has become one of Brees' favorite targets. Thomas leads New Orleans' pass-catchers in receptions (42) and ranks second in yards (500) and touchdowns (three). "I couldn't ask for anything more out of a rookie wide receiver," Brees said of Thomas following Sunday's win against the Seahawks. The rookie will continue to be a focal point of the Saints offense on Sunday.

Where They Excel: Passing Game

This is neither new nor surprising, especially given the notes above. The Saints lead the league in passing, and Brees is on pace for his fifth 5,000-yard season through the air. Aside from Thomas, Brandin Cooks remains the team's top big-play threat with two touchdowns of more than 80 yards on the year. Willie Snead and tight end Coby Fleener round out the most prominent names on New Orleans' potent aerial attack.

Where They Struggle: Pass Defense

The Saints defense ranks 29th in passing yards allowed at 286.7 yards per game. Part of that has to do with their decimated secondary. New Orleans has six defensive backs on Injured Reserve. As a defense, the Saints have just three interceptions on the season and have allowed more than 30 points in four separate contests. Brees and Co. are likely to put points on the board, but Colin Kaepernick and 49ers should have their fair share of opportunities as well.

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