Carolina Panthers vs. San Francisco 49ers - 1/12/14
San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Carolina Panthers (12-4)
NFL Football: Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm (Bank of America Stadium)
The Line: Carolina Panthers -1 -- Over/Under: 42 See the Latest Odds
The San Francisco 49ers looks to keep their NFC title defense intact as they head to Carolina to face off against the NFC South division champion Panthers.
The Niners went into a frigid and unforgiving Lambeau Field last week to take on the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round and in what was one of the most exciting games of the season it was the visitors who escaped with a field goal victory as time expired. Colin Kaepernick had a special effort as he seemingly always does against the Pack and he was certainly the catalyst of the team’s success offensively against an energized Packers defense. San Fran has the majority of its core back from last year’s Super Bowl team but has added Anquan Boldin who has played well in his first year in the Bay and teamed up with a healthy Michael Crabtree and a motivated Vernon Davis it makes the Niners passing game dangerous. Frank Gore has been business as usual as the bruiser continues to put up numbers and score touchdowns and while he isn’t necessarily the fastest or shiftiest of backs he gets the job done and opens up the field for San Fran’s passing attack. Defensively, the Niners are as strong as ever with Aldon Smith and Justin Smith running the show up front and Patrick Willis and Donte Hitner quarterbacking the secondary and they will have to play well against a Panthers team playing with an edge.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina has been one of the game’s biggest surprises this season as a team that fell well short of expectations last season has completely rebounded to become division champions. Cam Newton has been brilliant this season and is a large part of the team’s success but he hasn’t done it alone as Deangelo Williams had a bounce back year on the ground and the ageless Steve Smith continues to give Newton a receiving option down field. Luke Keuchly has emerged as one of the game’s best linebackers and his presence on Sunday will surely dictate how much success the Panthers defense has against Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense. Carolina has played well at home this season and are a slight favourite here but I think I am one of the few that doesn’t quite believe the hype surrounding this team at least not yet. Certainly they are a talented club as they claimed the second seed in the NFC and earned a first round bye and while they have had an extra week to prepare I don’t like the fact that this is Newton’s first time in the postseason especially against as talented a unit as San Fran’s defense. I think with Crabtree back in full health and Kaepernick playing with a renewed sense of confidence that the Niners will be very tough to beat and I think they get the road win here once again.