Line: 49ers -1
San Francisco had a tough matchup in the wild card round against the Packers in Lambeau Field. Being a team located in California many people felt that the 49ers would struggle it temperatures that were as low as 1 degree against a tough Packer team and a healthy Aaron Rodgers. What many people failed to recognize is that quarterback Colin Kaepernick is from Wisconsin so his is not as unfamiliar with cold weather as you would think. Add that to the fact that when you have a coach like Jim Harbaugh you are going to be prepared regardless of the playing conditions. In the end the 49ers used the strong right arm of Kaepernick (along with his legs), the overall brilliance of finally healthy wide receiver in Michael Crabtree, and a defense led by all world linebacker Navarro Bowman to get a tough road playoff win.
The Panthers earned the right to a number one seed by playing an “old school” brand of football. The offense starts with quarterback Cam Newton who saw a slight drop in his overall statistics, however he saw a huge increase in his teams wins. He was much more of a “game manager” than you would expect from an athlete with world-class skills. The team still runs the read-option and excels with Newton working in tandem with running backs Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart as well as short yardage back Mike Tolbert. Wide receiver Steve Smith remains a top-flight wide receiver capable of blowing the top off the coverage and creating big plays for his team. Tight End Greg Olsen is also one of the most consistent tight ends in the league and a consistent red zone threat. On the defensive side of the ball they combine a top-notch defensive line with arguably the best middle linebacker in the league in Luke Kuechly. He had 24 tackles in one game this season and is a playmaking machine.
With the line fluctuating between a pick em and a San Francisco being 1-point favorites this borders on being only the 6th time ever that there has been a home underdog during the divisional round of the playoffs. It is important to know that in 4 out of 5 of those previous games the home underdog has won the game outright. This has the potential to be a low scoring game with both teams taking a conservative approach against such strong opposing defenses. The running game of Carolina is a strength and it will be up to the 49ers running back stable of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LeMichael James to match them in yards on the ground. Don’t be surprised if this game comes down to a field goal contest with both teams showing their dominant defense.
Pick: 49ers -1
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