By Jay Betsill
San Francisco 49ers vs Carolina Panthers
Sunday – January 12 – 12:00 PM
Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte
The defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers take to the road again this week, traveling to Charlotte to take on the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have not lost at Bank of America Stadium since dropping a 12-7 decision to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1. They also have a 10-9 victory over the 49ers on the road in San Francisco to add to their confidence for their first playoff appearance since 2008.
The 49ers are riding a league-best seven game winning streak into this Week 10 rematch. Major difference for the 49ers is this time they will have Vernon Davis (he left the first meeting in the second quarter with a concussion) and Michael Crabtree (the team has not lost since his return off injured reserve) at head coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s disposal. However, it is likely cornerback Carlos Rogers will miss his second straight playoff game, bringing veteran Perrish Cox back into the fold.
Cam Newton will be making his first playoff appearance following a season in which he only had one game of over 275 yards passing as the Panthers relied heavily on their run game and physical defense. The Panthers are fully aware that containing Kaepernick a second time will be a tough task although their defense was second in the NFL with 301.2 yards and led the league with 60 sacks.
“You don’t want to be overthinking things,” Newton said. “I have yet to experience a playoff game, but I know the atmosphere will be hectic to say the least.”
While these two teams can often be mirror images of one another, the 49ers are the better, more polished version and will win a close contest on the road, 17-14.