As a 49ers fan and a fan of defense in general, I have been admiring the Panthers all season. Great young defense, creative offense; it was a pleasure watching them take the NFC South by storm. It was invigorating watching the slugfest that took place at Candlestick when these two teams clashed, the game was throwback football at its finest. I left that game with an even greater respect for what Carolina had going.
So when I came over to Cat Scratch Reader I expected to find a fun and enthused fan base that was eager to take their best shot at the NFC with a young upstart team. Upon reading comments however, I was shocked to instead find a group of fans who speak as if their team is the Yankees of the 90s. Oblivious to reality doesn't begin to describe the arrogance I see as I read these comments about a QB who has never won a playoff game, a franchise who has never won a super bowl, and a team who barely won a weak division. Unbelievable.
So in an attempt to do a favor to all and temper expectations as quickly as possible, I'd like to give some information about this upcoming game. When I said the earlier match-up between the 49ers and the Panthers was a classic slugfest, I said this with full knowledge that the healthy Panthers were playing against a severely handicapped 49ers team. It was the absence of key players to the 49ers that allowed this game to be a slugfest. Shall we look:
- Top WR Crabtree didn't play, the offense is 50% less effective without him
- All-Pro TE Vernon Davis barely played
- Aldon Smith fresh out of rehab barely played and was out of shape
- Eric Reid was injured which directly resulted in one of the few big plays the Panthers had.
- Kyle Williams was not ONLY the #2 receiver but we was also the PR/KR (he has since been cut)
- Dominate offensive linemen Joe Staley and Mike Iupati were banged up
To ignore these injuries is to ignore reality. And the reality is that this will be a very clean win for a streaking 49ers team. I don't believe this game will even be in question at any point after halftime, and most 49ers fans will agree with me that the Packers on the tundra were a much scarier match-up. If I wanted to be even harsher I'd bring up what a bad loss here would mean for the Panthers; Cam Newton being blown out in his first playoff game would put him much closer to the Andy Dalton end of the spectrum than the Colin Kaepernick end. Ron Rivera was on his way out a mere three months ago, those questions will immediately resurface. Doubt will be cast on this team and whether or not it was just another example of the NFC South breeding group that produces an overhyped team every year.
Because make NO mistake... if the Panthers were in the NFC West and the Cardinals were in the NFC South- it would be the Panthers at home for the holidays and the Cardinals facing the 49ers this Sunday. And quite frankly as a 9ers fan- I'd be way more worried about that match-up.