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Saints know firsthand that 49ers will be 'desperate'

METAIRIE, La. -- Who would've thought two weeks ago that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton would be fielding questions about whether his team has to guard against "eating the cheese" (i.e. overconfidence) with the San Francisco 49ers coming into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this week.

But that's how quickly things can change in the NFL, where the Saints and 49ers now boast matching 4-4 records after New Orleans' two-game win streak and San Francisco's two-game stumble.

For the record, the Saints insist that they aren't eating any cheese -- both because they don't feel like they've come anywhere near their own goals yet, and because they know from firsthand experience how hungry these 49ers will be to end their own losing streak.

"They probably feel this week like we did a couple weeks ago, where you're just in desperate need for a win," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "And because of that we know the type of team that's gonna come in here."

Coach Sean Payton made a similar reference, saying, "We'll get a very hungry team. … We know the type of game we're gonna get. These guys will be ready to play."

But Payton said the 49ers won't be the only ones with that edge. When asked if he talks to his players about that "desperate-team theory," Payton quickly interjected, "Hey, we're desperate as well."

"Someone's going to 4-5 and the other team's gonna be 5-4," Payton said. "So obviously we don't delve into that as much as we just talked about understanding the type of game we've got to play this week."

Payton is always looking for certain statistics or points of emphasis he can drill into his team to make sure an opponent gets their attention. He didn't have any shortage of material this week.

Different players Wednesday rattled off a variety of reasons why the 49ers are a dangerous opponent: They have the best road record in the NFL since 2011; they have the best record in the NFC over the past three years; they have 16 Pro Bowlers on the roster (though not all of them will be active); they've never lost three straight games under coach Jim Harbaugh.

None of those factors, however, are as motivating as the Saints' own personal experiences against San Francisco in recent years.

The 49ers beat the Saints in the playoffs after the 2011 season in San Francisco and in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2012 (during Payton's suspension). Then the Saints finally scratched out a come-from-behind 23-20 victory last year in New Orleans.

"We have the utmost respect for them," said Saints linebacker Parys Haralson, who began his career in San Francisco before being traded to New Orleans last summer.

Haralson said he particularly isn't going to consider the 49ers' offensive line as a weakness, despite the fact that they've allowed a stunning 14 sacks over the past two weeks.

"I know a bunch of those guys," Haralson said. "They'll go back and they'll get it corrected."

The Saints have some daunting credentials of their own coming into this game. They've won 11 straight home games -- and 20 straight home games with Payton as coach (including the playoffs, not including his 2012 suspension).

But Payton quickly rejected the cheese when asked about that subject, as well.

"None of it's applicable for this weekend's game, it really isn't," said Payton, who said it was no different than the Saints ignoring the "noise" about their poor road record before winning at Carolina last week.

"It's nice to get in front of the home crowd. And we feel like we've gotten some momentum going with these last two victories," Brees said. "But I think especially just the way that our season's gone, we want to take advantage of this opportunity and this momentum that we have, and continue to focus on getting better.

"And listen, the schedule doesn't get any easier, it gets tougher. We've played these guys three years in a row, and it's always been a tough game, a physical game. So we know what to expect, we know they're gonna be ready, and we gotta make sure we're ready as well."