The Carolina Panthers finished the 2013 regular season on an 11-1 SU and 8-3-1 ATS run to lock up the second seed in the NFC.
But while that performance locked up home field, it did not lock up respect as a home favorite as they will be a slight home underdog at +1.5 hosting the dangerous San Francisco 49ers this Sunday.
Historically, Carolina has dominated this head-to-head series with an 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS record over San Francisco since 1999 and 15-3 ATS lifetime. Yet there are plenty of trends favoring the 49ers here as they have been dominant on the road (11-3-1 ATS past 15) and more dominant as road favorites (9-1 SU and ATS past 10).
While Cam Newton is the face of the Carolina Panthers, the real star of the team is its stingy defense. Ranking sixth in the NFL in passing defense and second in the NFL in rushing defense, the Panthers held opposing teams to just 15.1 points per game this year.
[ Panthers vs 49ers computer prediction: 28-26 Carolina ]
Since losing its home opener to Seattle 12-7, Carolina has gone 7-0 SU and 6-0-1 ATS at home. The Panthers have allowed just 12 points per game at home this year with no opponent going over 20.
Carolina squares off this week against one of the only teams in the league that can rival it on defense in the San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco held opponents to 17 points per game this season, ranking seventh in the NFL in passing defense and fourth in rushing defense.
Also like Carolina, San Francisco got off to a slow start of 1-2 SU and ATS before getting it together to go 12-2 SU and 9-3-2 over its last 14 games. The 49ers' win over Green Bay last week brought the team to 7-0 SU and 4-2-1 ATS over its last seven games.
The two teams met this year in San Francisco and Carolina edged out a 10-9 win as a 6-point underdog. The total went UNDER in that game and has gone UNDER in six of San Francisco's last nine games and eight of Carolina's last nine.
One of the weekend's most interesting matchups, these two teams are built the exact same way and do not give up an inch without a fight on defense. Every single offensive possession will be magnified in this one, and the team that can make the one big play or avoid the one big mistake will come out on top.
Panthers 49ers Betting trends: (from Odds Shark NFL database)
49ers are 2-7 ATS at Carolina since 1995
Carolina is 15-3 ATS vs Niners since 1995
OVER is 12-3 past 15 meetings
49ers are 11-3-1 ATS past 15 road games
49ers are 9-1 SU and ATS past 10 games as road chalk
Panthers are 7-3 ATS lifetime in the playoffs
Panthers are 8-1-1 ATS past 10 home games
Panthers are 8-3 ATS past 11 games as underdogs