Perhaps no two teams are more alike than the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. The two teams will meet at 1:05 PM on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium for the right to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
They both have big, physical, mobile, playmaking quarterbacks. They both have offenses that are built around the running game. They both rely on physical, highly ranked defenses built around stopping the run first.
The two teams met in the regular season back on November 10 at Candlestick Park. The first matchup showed how close the teams are to each other. Carolina won by the slimmest of margins, with the final score being 10-9 in one of the most physical games of the season. The rematch has all the ingredients to be just as close and physical. I believe the team that wins the game will win because of the play of their quarterback.
In the last meeting, Colin Kaepernick went 11/22 for 91 yards and 1 interception. Kaepernick also had 4 carries for 16 yards. Cam Newton went 16/32 for 169 yards and 1 interception. Newton also carried the ball 7 times for 17 yards. The numbers weren’t great for either quarterback, in fact they are very similar. The difference in the last meeting was that Newton was able to lead the Panthers down the field during the fourth quarter to kick a game-winning field goal.
There isn’t much to take from last meeting so let’s fast forward to this weekend. The Panthers are at home for this weekend’s game and will have the crowd on their side. That’s the only advantage for either team and that’s not much of an advantage as the 49ers are proven road winners.
Like I said before I believe the game will come down to which quarterback plays the best. Kaepernick has postseason experience as he is 3-1 as a starter and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance last season. Cam Newton will be making his postseason debut. Kaepernick is an improved passer but still relies heavily on his legs when things break down and he gets in trouble, last week against Green Bay he had some big-time runs, one that gave the 49ers a first down and allowed them to milk the clock before kicking the game-winning field goal. Kaepernick has a healthy arsenal of weapons in Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Anquan Boldin. Cam Newton is coming off his most efficient season as a professional quarterback. He’s also improved as a leader. He’s led several fourth quarter comebacks this season and the Panthers won a franchise best 12 games. It’ll be interesting to see how Cam performs in his first postseason game, he’s always been a big-game quarterback dating back to Auburn. Newton will be his favorite target wide receiver Steve Smith back this weekend, although there are concerns that he isn’t 100% healthy.
This deciding factor of this game will be the quarterbacks. Who do you trust more, Newton or Kaepernick?