The Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers both had less-than-ideal starts to the 2013 season, but both have turned things around to meet on Sunday as perhaps the two hottest teams in the NFL. The Panthers have run over their last four opponents by an average score of 32.5 to 12, while the 49ers have done nearly the same over their last five games, going 5-0 with an average score of 34.8 to 12.2.
Which team is going to give in during their Week 10 matchup in San Francisco and will it be a high-scoring or low-scoring affair?
Despite the Panthers' hot streak, the 49ers are still 7-point favorites at home. Both teams have the same record against the spread as they do straight up: Carolina is 5-3 against the spread and San Francisco is 6-2. Perhaps more important to note, the Panthers are 2-2 on the road against the spread, while the 49ers are 3-1 against the spread at home.
Even with a rich history like San Francisco's, the Panthers are 10-7 all-time against the 49ers and have won seven of their last nine meetings. Both teams are ranked in the top five in scoring defense and the over/under has been set at 43 points. The total has gone over in four of Carolina's last five road games, while the total has gone over in four of the last five games for the 49ers no matter where they play.
Carolina got a big boost to its offense last week with the return of running back Jonathan Stewart, who ran nine times for 43 yards in his 2013 debut. He also caught three passes for 22 yards and could have a significant effect on how well the Panthers play over the rest of their season, including how many points they are able to score.
San Francisco's possible huge addition to the game on Sunday could be linebacker Aldon Smith. On an indefinite suspension, Smith could return after sitting out the last five games. Smith has 38 sacks in 35 career games and had 4.5 sacks in three games to start the year. He could provide a major swing on the score if he is activated and plays the whole game against Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Carolina is 5-1 against the spread in its last six games, while the 49ers are 5-0 against the spread over their last five. The Panthers have beaten the spread in eight of their last 11 road games.
It's certainly shaping up to be the best game of the week as these two meet in the Bay Area, and even though the 49ers may be favored, it certainly seems like the Panthers are good enough to keep it closer than seven points.
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