In Week 10, the Panthers went on the road and beat the 49ers. Now, two months later, the 49ers will attempt to return the favor. That game ended in a 10-9 slugfest and the two teams could be headed for another defensive battle on Sunday.
Watching film for the teams must have felt a lot like looking in the mirror. Both are built around dominating defenses and power running games. San Francisco allowed 5.0 yards per play this season, eighth in the league. Carolina was seventh, at 4.9 yards per play. Only two teams ran the ball more than the 49ers and the Panthers were not far behind with the seventh-most rushing attempts. Even Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are similar and have the ability to beat teams with their arm or legs.
Neither quarterback played very well in the first meeting, combining to average 4.8 yards per attempt. They may have more success this time, but the game is still likely to be a defensive battle. Carolina led the NFL in opponent yards per point while San Francisco finished third.
Carolina has the advantage of playing at home, but the 49ers will get a boost of their own. Michael Crabtree did not play in the Week 10 meeting and his presence since returning has been notable. San Francisco averaged 6.9 yards per pass attempt and 5.2 yards per play without Crabtree. Those numbers improved to 7.5 YPA and 5.8 YPP with him.