The San Francisco 49ers have made a habit out of grinding opponents into submission with their hard nosed defense and ground and pound offense, however in week ten it will be the Carolina Panthers using those techniques to score an upset and a fifth straight victory over the defending NFC Champions.
A cross country trip is never an easy task, but quarterback Cam Newton and his Panthers are up to the task of unseating one of the powerhouses in the NFL in San Francisco. Both of these teams struggled early, Carolina began 1-3 and San Francisco 1-2. Neither has lost since, making this one contest one of the most intriguing on the week’s schedule.
The makeup of the Panthers also closely resembles the 49ers too.
An obvious comparison is at quarterback. Both Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are young and extremely talented. Possessing strong arms, the ball can get where it needs to go in an instant when either man is throwing it. Mobility also separates these men apart from just about every passer in the league other than each other. They both even have signature celebrations after a score. Cam Newton acts like Superman while Kaepernick kisses his bicep.
Running the football is a bit of a lost art, unless of course you are a fan of the Panthers or 49ers. With 153 yards per game on the ground, the 49ers are the top rushing team in the NFL thus far in 2013. Carolina is not far behind at a little over 130 yards per game.
While this may seem like an advantage for the 49ers, the Panthers actually should have an advantage in the rushing department on Sunday. Defensively the 49ers have not been as stout against the rush as they were a year ago. Ranking towards the middle of the league in that department, San Francisco gives up 104.6 yards on the ground each week. Carolina on the other hand is as good as they come against the rush. Controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Panthers allow just 79.2 yards per game via the rush.
Now, today’s NFL is without a doubt a passing league, so the aerial attack will of course be a factor. This is another advantage for Carolina. Cam Newton has looked better than Colin Kaepernick throwing the football this season, at least after the week one thrashing Kaep put on the Packers. Neither team is elite passing the football, but the play of Newton and the development of weapons such as Brandon LaFell make the Panthers passing game more well rounded than what San Francisco brings to the table. Anquan Boldin was a nice story early, but has struggled against added defensive attention since, Mario Manningham’s return should eventually help but we don’t know what he’ll look like in his first game back.
Plain and simple, bet the under in this game. Both teams make it incredibly difficult to score, however the Panthers defense has been a step ahead of the vaunted 49ers unit so far this season. Giving up just 13.3 points a game, they are almost a touchdown better than the San Francisco 49ers defense that allows 18.8 points in each contest. The Panthers are also giving up over 25 yards per game fewer than San Fran.
Bottom line, the Carolina Panthers are on fire and stack up well against the San Francisco 49ers. No doubt Colin Kaepernick and company are hot, but the Panthers look to have used the model set by San Fran and created their own monster. Here’s a vote for the apprentice beating the master in this one in the final seconds.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers 23, San Francisco 49ers 20