A streak will come to an end Sunday afternoon as the Carolina Panthers (5-3) take their four game winning streak to Candlestick Park and face the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) who are in the midst of a five game winning streak of their own. This is a match-up that includes a couple of smash mouth teams with big boys up front.
Carolina’s front seven has been downright scary this season with Charles Johnson (7 sacks) and Greg Hardy (5 sacks) creating havoc on the edges and the linebacker corps lead by Luke Kuechly have halted opposing offenses during their winning streak. The defense in it’s entirety has come up with 19 total takeaways and are currently second in the NFL against the run. This defense has just been mauling the opposition but they will face a great test when they face the 49ers and their very talented offensive line.
The 49ers have the number one rushing attack and have incorporated Colin Kaepernick into this attack over the last few weeks making the Niner offense more dangerous. Keapernick is more decisive when he runs and once he gets to the second level he has proven time and time again that he can make people miss. The passing game for the Niners is also likely to improve as Mario Manningham will make his season debut and is likely to start along side Anquan Boldin.
On defense, Aldon Smith will also make his return after missing the last five games. The 49er coaches have not said how many snaps he is going to play but just his presence alone will command double teams and affect the way the Panther’s offense attacks San Francisco.
Matchup to watch: Quarterback Play
In this game, both teams have great defenses and good running games so the difference in the game will ultimately fall on the arms of Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick. Both QB’s are phenomenal playmakers and whoever can make more plays down the field and play the most mistake-free football will put their team in a great position to win.
Player to Watch: Mario Manningham
The struggles of the 49er receivers this season have been well documented this season but now they will get a guy who can actually win some one on one battles and make things easier for Boldin and Vernon Davis. It will be interesting to see if Kaepernick goes to him early to see how he responds.
Bottom Line: The students are still students
I see a lot of what the 49ers have done over the previous couple of years in the way Carolina is beginning to build their franchise. They have lots of positive things to look forward to but not yet. This will be a hard fought game with crushing hits and lots of punts. If you like high octane offenses and fancy trickery then, this is not the game for you.