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The Carolina Panthers (5-3) will ride a four game win streak into their 4:05 ET match against the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) on Sunday. Four game win streaks are good, but the 49ers are on a five game streak themselves. Both teams reside in second place of their respective divisions and both are just a single game away from vaulting themselves into a tie for first place. Weather forecasts are calling for a sunny day with a comfortable temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit. FOX will televise this game.
The aforementioned four wins in a row by the Panthers should come with a disclaimer. The teams they beat (STL, TAM, MIN, ATL) have a combined record of 6-27. Carolina's only other win came against the 2-6 New York Giants. While the 49ers haven't been taking down NFL heavyweights (yet), they do have wins against two 4-4 teams' thanks to scores against the Cardinals and Titans.
The hosting 49ers are favored by 6.5 points at 5 dimes sportsbook and have attracted a whopping 83% of the action at sportsbook.com, according to their betting trends. Carolina is 5-3 ATS compared to 6-2 for the 49ers. The O/U is 4-4 Panther's games and 5-3 in 49ers games this year.
Dual threat QB Cam Newton leads the Panther's offense passing with 1,801 YDS and 18 TDs and another 251 YDS and 4 TDs on the ground. The do-it-all Heisman winner from Auburn is in his third year in the NFL and is faring well considering the lack of talent surrounding him. He relies on TE Greg Olson who has 34 catches for 426 YDS and 4 TDs this year. 13 year veteran WR Steve Smith is slumping and has only 36 catches for 387 YDS and 3 TDS. Carolina ranks 26th in passing yards and will have to step that up to compete for a playoff spot.
Luckily for fans, they are making up for it on the ground. FB Mike Tolbert has been good in the red zone with 206 YDS and 4 TDs on 57 carries. RB DeAngelo Williams has only made one trip to the end zone, but has 519 yards on 127 carries. They will face a San Francisco defense that ranks 12th in the NFL against the run, giving up 104.6 YPG. Carolina is currently averaging 130.1 YPG, which is good for 8th best in the NFL.
The 49ers also have a dual threat QB; Colin Kaepernick. The Nevada graduate has 1,584 passing YDS to go along with 9 TDs from the sky. He has rushed for another 294 yards and 3 TDs, all three of which came in his last two games. He will get a tough test against a Panthers defense that ranks 10th in the league against the pass, allowing 220.8 YPG.
However, it's RB Frank Gore that will have a tougher challenge. He will try to put up big numbers against a defense that doesn't really allow them on the ground. Carolina enters this game ranking 2nd in the NFL against the run, giving up a paltry 79.1 YPG. Gore has 618 YDS and 7 TDS this year, but has averaged only 3.3 YPC (43 touches) in his last two games.
Neither of these teams has proved themselves a true contender just yet, but a win in this game would be a big step forward. The Panthers come in with a yards per point number on defense of 22.6 which is simply fantastic, not to mention more than 4 points better than the 49ers defensive number of 17.9, also very good. Both teams offensive number is approximately 13. The Panthers turnover margin is +8 while the 49ers is +4.
This game looks to be the marquee game of the week in the NFL. Every thing we like to look at when handicapping an NFL game points to a good close game making the points worth a very strong look. Would love to grab +7 here but this one is still playable at +6.5 or even +6. Panthers +6.5
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