The San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers played a 10-9 game earlier this season, a contest won by the Panthers straight up and on the betting lines. Can the 49ers get revenge on the big stage of the postseason?
NFC Divisional Playoff Game – Sunday, January 12th
San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers
NFL Football Odds: 49ers -1
Why The 49ers Can Cover The Spread
They are a better team. San Francisco didn’t lose by a field goal or a touchdown or even 10 points to Carolina the first time these two teams met this season. The 49ers lost by only one point, and they lost despite a great outing from their defense, which allowed one touchdown and a long field goal. That’s a performance which should almost always result in a win, but Carolina’s defense smothered the Niners’ offense, especially in the second half. San Francisco will have receiver Michael Crabtree available in this game, and that should make the 49ers’ passing offense a lot more effective than it was two months ago by the San Francisco Bay. The Niners don’t even have to score a huge amount of points to win here, either. If they can hit 20, they should like their chances, given that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton will be making his first playoff start and will probably be very nervous. As long as San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick doesn’t make big mistakes, the 49ers should be in a strong position entering the fourth quarter and will feel that their defense can hold up under pressure. Carolina receiver Steve Smith will play in this game, but he has been bothered by injuries and will very likely be much less than fully effective for the Panthers on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.
Why The Panthers Can Cover The Spread
Their defense can shut down San Francisco’s offense once again. One has to realize how comprehensively Carolina crushed the 49ers’ offense two months ago. Carolina stood tall in the red zone in the first half and then put the clamps down in the second half. The 49ers had chances to win the game in the fourth quarter, but they rarely came close to midfield. They usually got stuffed inside their own 30-yard line. The Panthers’ front seven was that dominant against the Niners’ solid offensive line. The Panthers handed San Francisco a loss that might have been only one point on the scoreboard, but it was as thorough a physical beating as the 49ers have received at the line of scrimmage this season. Carolina owned total control of the point of contact on defense, with San Francisco’s offensive line being utterly unable to spring any holes or gaps for star running back Frank Gore. If Carolina’s commitment to stopping the ground game continues to bring forth good results, and if San Francisco is forced into a lot of third and longs, the Niners could be limited to nine points once again.
The Panthers won’t allow many points, but they’ll allow at least 16 if not 20, and San Francisco’s defense can once again limit Carolina’s offense to 10 points. The 49ers have a better situation now than they did roughly two months ago. Expect them to win and cover the point spread.
Pick: 49ers -1