This morning, the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Carolina Panthers in a NFC divisional playoff matchup at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. A trip to the NFC Championship Game in Seattle is on the line where the winner will face the Seahawks. The 49ers and Panthers last met on November 10 in San Francisco where the Panthers won a close 10-9 battle.
Offensively, the 49ers are ranked 24th in the league while the Panthers are ranked 26th. Defensively, the 49ers are ranked 5th in the league while the Panthers are ranked 2nd.
The 49ers are looking to appear in their third straight NFC Championship Game. The last time these two teams met, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick struggled, going 11 of 22 for a season-low 91 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The Panthers had snapped a five-game winning streak by the 49ers. "We owe them," said Kaepernick during a post-game interview after the team's Wildcard victory last week.
The Panthers ended the season with a defense that ranked second in the league, allowing only 301.2 yards and 15.1 points per game. They also pressured the quarterback well and led the league with 60 sacks.
The 49ers have won seven in a row and Kaepernick has averaged 231.7 passing yards per game, thrown 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions, averaged 6.7 yards per rush, and had a passer rating of 101.7. The 49ers will have a little more help on offense this time around than the last time these two teams met. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has returned from a serious Achilles injury and has been making a difference among the offense. Tight end Vernon Davis left the November 10 matchup early after suffering a concussion leaving Kaepernick with limited receiving options.
On defense, linebacker Aldon Smith will have a much bigger role than the limited one he had during the November 10 matchup, which was his first game back from the non-football injury.
While Kaepernick already has plenty of playoff winning experience, this is Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's playoff debut. He set career highs with 24 touchdowns, a 61.7 completion percentage, and a passer rating of 88.8. He also rushed for 585 yards and six touchdowns. He has helped the Panthers win 11 of their past 12.
Panthers receiver Steve Smith's role may be limited after he injured his left knee during week 16. He missed the team's week 17 game against the Falcons. Smith caught six passes for 63 yards against the 49ers on November 10.
Last week, the 49ers (13-4) defeated the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in the Wildcard round of the playoffs. The Panthers (12-4) defeated the Atlanta Falcons 21-20 during week 17.
The game kicks off at 10:05 AM PT and, as usual, you can visit 49erswebzone.com for the latest news and updates during and after the game.
The game will be televised on FOX. The 49ers opened the spread as slight favorites but are now even.
Within Yahoo! Sports, a popular mobile scores application, 57% of fans believe that the 49ers will win this game.
Within our Pick 'em contest, 93% of fans believe that the 49ers will win this game.
You can follow the game live on NFL.com's Game Center.
You can also discuss the game with fans in the 49erswebzone.com forums. Become a fan of 49erswebzone.com on Facebook and Google+ or follow us on Twitter.
49ers Injury Report
Questionable: CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring), LB Dan Skuta (foot)
Probable: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), WR Michael Crabtree (wrist), DT Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), C Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), RB Frank Gore (knee), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)
Panthers Injury Report
Out: DT Colin Cole (calf), WR Steve Smith (knee), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee)
Probable: TE Ben Hartsock (knee), S Quinton Mikell (thumb)
Article photo by Sam Sharpe of USA Today Sports