The San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers will face off on Sunday in a Week 10 matchup. San Francisco (6-2) is coming off a bye week and is riding a five-game winning streak, while Carolina (5-3) is riding a streak of four consecutive wins.
San Francisco has beaten the better competition this season, by a narrow margin, and they don't have any egregious losses on their record like Carolina does (Buffalo, Arizona). Still, it should be an exciting matchup between two of the better defenses in the league and offenses led by dynamic, young quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton.
Let's take a look at both teams below, starting with the home team:
Meet the 49ers
The 49ers definitely have some skewed stats when you look at the offensive side of the ball. They are among the top teams in the league, yet have the No. 32 passing offense at 189.9 yards per game on average. On the flipside, they have the No. 1 rushing attack, with 153.0 yards on the ground on average.
Colin Kaepernick has suffered from a lack of receivers of late, though he's getting Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree back soon. Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin have had their moments, but by and large, it's been on Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter to carry the load in the running game.
Oh, and Kaepernick as well. He doesn't throw as much as other quarterbacks because he's so effective at running the ball. But that will all be very difficult on Sunday, due to the impressive Carolina rush defense.
Meet the Panthers
The Panthers have the No. 2 rush defense in the NFL, allowing 79.1 rushing yards per game on average. They'll have their hands full with the 49ers, who boast one of the more complex and varied rushing attacks in the league. While Carolina has certainly earned their wins off of bad teams of late, they have faced some competent running backs and bottled them up.
Both Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson were ineffective against the Panthers, coming in under the 79.1 average mark. Despite having faced some of the worst offenses in the league, Carolina's front seven is definitely legit. The mistake they can't make is being too lax in the passing game while they concentrate on Gore, as tight end Vernon Davis has come up very big in recent weeks.
They'll also need to get the No. 25 pass offense in the NFL going, something they've been able to do against lesser secondaries, but the 49ers have been particularly stingy in that vein this season. It should be a solid matchup.
Local Takes: 49ers
James Brady of Niners Nation thinks the 49ers can't overlook the Panthers, despite the latter playing some poor teams:
To put it simply: the Panthers are an opportunistic team that play aggressive football. They can be taken advantage of, but it won't be an easy game. Fortunately, outpacing their offense isn't too difficult when you have a solid defense as well, which the 49ers do. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the Panthers stand when it comes to their raw stats given the poor teams they've faced thus far, but we work with what we're given.
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49ers, Panthers have played 17 times over the years. Keep forgetting they used to share the NFC West. Those early Panthers teams were tough— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) November 5, 2013
Panthers Bringing Back a Familiar Face to Play RG http://t.co/0sLF7YtUmW— Cat Scratch Reader (@CatScratchReadr) November 5, 2013
All six of SB Nation's experts picked the 49ers to hold out for the win at home. That panel includes Ryan Van Bibber, Joel Thorman, Jason Chilton, Stephen White, David Fucillo and Matt Ufford.
The 49ers opened as 6.5-point favorites for the matchup, and the line has gone in both directions throughout the week. Some books have them favored by 7 points or more, while others have dropped to 6, according to OddsShark.