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The San Francisco 49ers will be on the road for their second game of the playoffs, but this game is expected to be much warmer, when they travel south to take on the Carolina Panthers. This game, like many others this week will be a rematch from the regular season. Read Full Preview Here
Check back all week as this thread will be updated on a regular basis with information on this game and a free pick by gameday!
49ers pick 'em at Panthers: After the 49ers prevailed against the Packers, this line went up at the LVH at pick 'em at 4:46 p.m. Vegas time, according to the Don Best screen. Within a few minutes, BetOnline went with the Panthers minus-1 but Olympic went with 49ers minus-2.5 and was joined by Pinnacle. Those numbers started getting bet down right away and it didn't take long before the consensus line was 49ers minus-1. Later in the evening, the line inched up to 1.5 and 2 and even 2.5 at the LVH late Sunday night. It looks like it'll settle in that space at just under a field goal. The over/under looks like it is settling in at 43.
Wide receiver Steve Smith jumped right in with the first-team offense running routes for the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.
Running back Jonathan Stewart jumped right into the mix in the backfield.
It was Smith's first full practice since spraining his left knee in the first quarter of a Dec. 22 home game against the New Orleans Saints. It was Stewart's first full practice since spraining his knee in a Dec. 8 game at New Orleans.
Both are expected to play in Sunday's NFC playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.
"Probably wasn't as good as I had hoped, but it was pretty good,'' Smith said after practice. "The weather was a little cold so the ground was a little hard. Other than that, it was pretty good.''
Smith said physically he is fine. He just has to overcome the mental aspect of being hurt and regaining confidence in the knee.
"Confidence is getting better,'' said the team's all-time leading receiver. "It's always good to be repping with the first team and running routes, getting familiar and catching the ball. I feel very comfortable with that, and hopefully tomorrow I will feel better.''
Tight end Greg Olsen was glad to see Smith back, understanding just how important he is to the Carolina passing game.
"He really sets the coverage for us when Steve's out there,'' Olsen said. "It's important. He's our main guy. It's no secret, for 13 years our passing game of where it's gone through.''
Smith was listed as limited in practice, as was defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf).
"He wasn't that limited,'' coach Ron Rivera said of Smith. "Probably the biggest thing was we really wanted to get him out there and have him running around, so we limited the number of reps he was out. But for the most part moving around, I thought he looked pretty good.''
Tight end Ben Hartsock (knee), safety Quintin Mikell (thumb) and Stewart all were listed as full participation. Rivera expects all will be ready for the 49ers, although he said it was too early to predict how Stewart would be worked into the backfield rotation with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert.
"It felt good,'' Stewart said of his knee. "Like I am definitely getting back in the groove. I felt pretty good.''
Newton may have gotten the win in Week 10, but he finished the game with a season-low 50 percent completion percentage and a 19.6 Total QBR (third worst of season). Newton may have actually benefited too from an atypical 49ers strategy.
The 49ers sent four or fewer rushers 81 percent of the time this season (second highest in the NFL), but did so only 68 percent of the time in Week 10. Newton was solid against five or more pass-rushers (6-of-10 passing), but went 10-of-22 with an interception against four or fewer.
If the 49ers send rushers at their normal rates, Newton may struggle even more.
Panthers’ rushers vs. 49ers’ tacklers
One of the keys to victory in Week 10 was a 27-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams late in the first half.
The play was notable because Williams was able to gain the final 16 yards of the rush after being contacted. Prior to that play, the 49ers hadn’t allowed 16 yards after contact on a single rush in any game since the start of the 2010 season.
The Panthers finished the game with 61 rush yards after contact, an average of 1.97 per rush. Both remain the most this season against the 49ers, who finished the regular season as the NFL's best in both categories.