Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Panthers: Because the previous paragraph is basically your only case for Carolina other than its defense single-handedly winning the game. Because the Panthers offense won't be able to produce 20 points unless they're allowed to use cheat codes. Because San Francisco's zero-degree victory in Lambeau over an on-his-game Rodgers was pretty damned impressive. Because it would be far-fetched for Carolina to beat San Francisco twice in six weeks. Because the Niners have been the best football team of the last three years (as a whole), and they're not going down because they couldn't slow down Brandon LaFell, Greg Olsen and a hobbled Steve Smith. Because I trust Kaepernick more than I trust Newton. Because we're destined for either "Niners-Seahawks III" or "Say Good-bye to Candlestick Again!" Because I believe in the Niners. Let's hope I didn't spray them with too much Billy Zima stink.
Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Niners: Because it looked too easy. All of it. And gambling is never, ever, EVER easy.
First playoff game for coach Ron Rivera
SF: 11 regular season covers (tied for best with Seattle)
SF: Crabtree did not play in first meeting – Vernon Davis play sparingly
10 am body clock at kickoff for 49ers
NFL BLITZ BIG PLAYOFF PICKS
Looking to keep my winning ways going and will get the picks up early...
The 49ers are coming off a victory on the road against Green Bay in the Wild Card round. The 49ers finished the regular season ranked third in rushing yards averaging 137.6 and 11th in points scored with 25.4 (11th). Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 243-of-416 passes with a 58.4 percent completion percentage and had 21 TDs and eight INTs. The 49ers showed continued success rushing the ball into the postseason, putting up 167 yards last week. Colin Kaepernick had 227 yards and completed 16 of his 30 attempted passes (53.3 percent). Kaepernick was the leading rusher with 98 yards on seven attempts with a long of 42 yards.
The Panthers offense have shown great ability to rush the ball as well averaging 126.6 yards per game. The Panthers have completed 44 percent of their third down conversion attempts (91-for-208) and 77 percent of fourth down attempts (10-for-13). DeAngelo Williams has been the Panthers leading rusher with 201 attempts for 843 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Cam Newton is tied for the most touchdowns on the team (six) and has rushed for 585 yards on 111 attempts. Newton has an 88.8 quarterback rating and completed 292 of his 473 pass attempts (61.7 percent).
The 49ers have a defense ranked no worse than seventh in points allowed, passing yards, rushing yards and total yards. The 49ers have eight players with 40 or more combined tackles lead by NaVorro Bowman with 145 tackles and fumbles recovered with four. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks lead the team in sacks as both tallied 8.5. The 49ers are hoping Aldon Smith is healthy enough to give their pass rush a much needed lift.
The Panthers are no worse than sixth in points allowed, passing yards, rushing yards and total yards. 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly is showing continued success leading the team in combined tackles with 156 and interceptions with four. The Panthers have two defensive players this year with over 10 sacks including defensive end Greg Hardy, who ranks third in the NFL with 15.
The 49ers are averaging 22.7 yards on kick returns ranking them 18th and they average 8.9 yards on punt returns (17th). The 49ers have shown some explosiveness returning kicks with two runs of over 40 yards including a long of 47. LaMichael James was San Francisco's leader in kick returns with 12 returns for 321 yards averaging 26.8 yards per return. James had 23 punt returns averaging 10.9. Kicker Phil Dawson in the regular season went 32-for-36 in field goals with a long of 56 yards.
The Panthers are averaging 21.9 yards on the kick return ranking them 24th and are ranked 12th in punt returns averaging 10.5 yards. Ted Ginn had 26 punt returns averaging 12.2 yards and was Carolina's leading kick returner with 25 returns for 595 yards averaging 23.8 a return. Kicker Graham Gano was 24-for-27 on field goals with a long of 55 yards.
Trends to consider: Kaepernick is 7-0-1 ATS on the road against non-division opponents. … The 49ers are 3-15 ATS all-time against the Panthers, including 0-5 ATS in the last five visits to Charlotte. … The Panthers are 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven home games. … The 49ers are 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 road games.
The UNDER is 8-1 in Carolina’s last nine games. … The UNDER is 4-1 in San Francisco’s last five playoff road games. … The OVER is 10-3 in the last 13 meetings.
This week, we have one Big Play, and it's a very Big Play. The public seems to have (once again) overreacted to a small sample, and forgotten that previous, more distant weeks do in fact still matter predictively. Teams don't magically morph into superteams when the playoffs begin. And the fact that San Francisco made the Super Bowl last year is irrelevant (just ask the Ravens).
Yep, we're gonna ride the Carolina Panthers again this week. The Panthers are the better team overall, are coming off a bye week, and are at home. Yet, the 49ers are a 1.5-point favorite as of 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday (lines between pick ‘em and San Fran -2 can be found in Las Vegas as of this posting).
As usual, we do not consider matchup factors or injuries (except to QBs). Massey-Peabody lines, which are listed in brackets, are based on team ratings and home-field advantage, with added points for teams coming off of bye weeks.