current subscribers Register me
not a subscriber? See my options

current subscribers Register me
not a subscriber? See my options

already a subscriber? Register me
Subscribe now See my options
National Football League
Preview
San Francisco at Carolina
When: 1:05 PM ET, Sunday, January 12, 2014
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Two of the league's hottest teams will square off when the second-seeded Carolina Panthers host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday with a berth in the NFC Championship Game at stake. It's a rematch of a Week 10 battle in San Francisco, a defensive duel in which the Panthers prevailed 10-9 as part of an eight-game winning streak and an 11-1 finish to close the regular season. The 49ers have ripped off seven consecutive victories and are seeking their third straight trip to the NFC title game.

Cam Newton, the top overall pick in the 2011 draft, has Carolina in the postseason for the first time in five years, but he has been overshadowed by fellow third-year Colin Kaepernick. San Francisco advanced to the Super Bowl last season behind Kaepernick, who had the worst game of his pro career against the Panthers in November. "They got us the first time," 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. "What’s on our minds is to get them now. It’s the playoffs. Win or go home."

TV: 1:05 p.m., Fox. LINE: Even. O/U: 41.

ABOUT THE 49ERS (13-4): Wide receiver Michael Crabtree missed the first matchup against Carolina while recovering from surgery on his Achilles' tendon, but he offered a reminded of what an impact player he can be with eight catches for 125 yards in last week's 23-20 win at frigid Green Bay. Tight end Vernon Davis also was a non-factor in the earlier meeting after suffering a second-quarter concussion, but he reeled in a 28-yard scoring pass last week for his sixth TD reception in six postseason games. Having the duo on the field should make life easier for running back Frank Gore and Kaepernick, who was held to 91 yards passing by the Panthers. The 49ers have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season, but are giving up an average of 21.3 points in the last three games after holding nine of the previous 11 opponents to 17 points or fewer.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (12-4): Newton threw for his lowest yardage total (3,379) in his three seasons but established career highs in touchdowns (24) and completion percentage (61.7) while showing his mettle at crunch time by directing four game-winning drives. Newton is also an integral part of a running game that features DeAngelo Williams as well as contributions from Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart, who expects to play for the first time in a month. A major concern is the status of veteran wide receiver Steve Smith's sprained left knee, with Panthers coach Ron Rivera admitting after Thursday's practice that Smith was not his "normal self." These is little concern over a defense - led by Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson and tackling machine Luke Kuechly - that registered a league-high 60 sacks and allowed the second-fewest points per game (15.1).

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Panthers are 7-1 at home, with the only loss coming to Seattle 12-7 in Week 1.

2. Crabtree has 28 catches and three touchdowns in his last four postseason games.

3. Kaepernick has 362 rushing yards in four playoff games for San Francisco, which can tie Pittsburgh for the most championship game appearances (15) since 1970 with a win.

PREDICTION: 49ers 20, Panthers 16
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf OT Div Conf
San Francisco 13-4 W7 25.2 17.2 6-2 6-2 12-2 1-2 0-0 5-1 10-3
Carolina 12-4 W3 22.9 15.1 7-1 5-3 10-2 2-2 0-0 5-1 9-3
Last Meeting
San Francisco Carolina
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
11/10/13 CAR 10 SF 9 151 105 46 278 109 169
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
San Francisco C. Kaepernick 50.0 91 0 1
Carolina C. Newton 50.0 169 0 1
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
San Francisco F. Gore 16 82 5.1 0
Carolina D. Williams 8 46 5.8 1
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
San Francisco M. Manningham 3 30 10.0 0
Carolina S. Smith 6 63 10.5 0
Touchdowns Player TD
San Francisco N. Asomugha 0
Carolina D. Williams 1
Season (Regular Season and Playoffs)
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
San Francisco C. Kaepernick 58.1 3424 22 9
Carolina C. Newton 61.7 3379 24 13
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
San Francisco F. Gore 296 1194 4.0 10
Carolina D. Williams 201 843 4.2 3
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
San Francisco A. Boldin 88 1217 13.8 7
Carolina G. Olsen 73 816 11.2 6
Touchdowns Player TD
San Francisco V. Davis 14
Carolina M. Tolbert 7