Preview

Panthers vs 49ers

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.

Mark Sandritter

The Panthers will win because

The Panthers have already proven they can beat the 49ers this season (10-9 in Week 10), now their second meeting takes place in Carolina where the Panthers are tougher. San Francisco allowed three sacks against the Packers in the wild card round, now they face the best front seven remaining in the playoffs. Can San Francisco stop the defensive end pairing of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy? Few have.

The 49ers will win because

They are healthy and have several key playmakers back in place. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 10-9 back in Week 10, but that 49ers team was missing Michael Crabtree (torn Achilles), lost Vernon Davis and Eric Reid to concussions during the game, and it was Aldon Smith’s first game back from rehab. While the team lost some players this season, they are about as healthy as a team could expect to be in the playoffs, and the offense is coming together with Crabtree back in the fold.

Number of interest

4.9

That’s the average number of points allowed by the Panthers in the first half of home games this season. Keep in mind that the 49ers scored 55-percent of their total points before halftime and there’s a good chance this game becomes another defensive slugfest.

Picks

  • Stephen White
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