Even though Alex Smith has been medically cleared to return to the starting lineup, it will ultimately be his eminent mediocrity that will keep him held out in favor of Colin Kaepernick under center. John Harbaugh had pretended to be indecisive all week about who he would be starting at quarterback against the Saints, but that was most likely a ploy to force New Orleans to spend time preparing for both.

If Kaep was able to shred the Bears defense with ease, I would imagine that the Saints, even on the road, shouldn’t pose much more of an obstacle. New Orleans, however, has won three in a row and four of their last five, largely on the strength of that porous defense finally getting turnovers and the offense getting production out of the likes of Chris Ivory. They’re lifted themselves to now being a game out in the Wild Card race, so now would probably not be the best time to drop a critical game against an NFC contender at home. To that end, hopefully they learned from the Bears that blocking Aldon Smith is somewhat advisable.

Your late game slate, as rated for potential watchability by KSK’s patented four- and sometimes five-star system:

Baltimore at San Diego **
St. Louis at Arizona **
San Francisco at New Orleans ***