49ers (-1 ½) @ Panthers, 1:05 EST
Over/Under @ 41.5
The last time these physical teams squared off was in San Francisco back on November 10, a game that the Panthers won by the score of 10-9 on a Graham Gano 53-yard field goal. The game was the worst of Colin Kaepernick’s young career, going 11 of 22 for a paltry 91 yards with an interception and passer rating of 42.0. Kaepernick was also sacked in that game six times for a net loss of 45 yards.
The Panthers weren’t exactly offensive juggernauts, posting just 250 net yards while Cam Newton was dropped three times for 28 yards on his way to a passer rating of 52.7. This game hardly fit the prototype of the modern day NFL and today’s game in Charlotte will also fly in the face of Roger Goodell’s “visionary” high scoring flag football league.
The 49ers will have Vernon Davis at their disposal for most of the game today. Davis was knocked out of the first encounter after just one catch for 2 yards. Davis however, can be intimidated by physicality and look for the black cats to muscle up on the former Terp. The Niners also get back Michael Crabtree and Aldon Smith, both scratches in the November game.
Wide receiver Steve Smith says he’s ok but we’ll see if his knee can hold up for 60 minutes. Advantage to the Panthers if Smith can go and Carlos Rogers can’t go. Rogers is questionable with a strained hamstring.
Don’t expect much offense in this game despite the perfect playing conditions at kickoff, sunny and 58 degrees. That said, it’s hard to imagine Kaepernick playing as poorly in this one particularly with Davis and Crabtree at his disposal. The 49ers are a battle-tested playoff team with more weapons than the hosts. It will be an emotional slugfest but in the end the Niners will earn the right to go on the road for a third straight week as a weary visitor in Seattle.
PREDICTION: 49ers 20, Panthers 13
Chargers @ Broncos (-9), 4:40 EST
Over/Under @ 55
The Chargers have effectively competed twice this season with the high-flying Broncos offensive attack by controlling the football. In the first two encounters, each team winning on the other’s turf, San Diego controlled the football for 38:03 and 38:49 in order to keep the game close. They will look to employ a similar strategy today.
That will bring the Denver defense up into the box and they’ll challenge Philip Rivers to beat them down the field. Antonio Gates isn’t the vertical threat that he once was and Eddie Royal is struggling with a toe injury that has kept him out of practice all week. Adding to the Chargers difficulties is the uncertain availability of Ryan Matthews who is questionable with an ankle injury. Matthews had 186 rushing yards combined in the two encounters with Denver.
Meanwhile Peyton Manning when he’s had the ball, has been successful against the Chargers this season throwing 6 TD’s in the two games to the tune of a 112.4 passer rating. The Chargers defense was opportunistic in Cincinnati but unfortunately for them they aren’t facing Andy Dalton today.
The week’s rest will prove to be a good friend for the Broncos as they’ll have their way today against a well-traveled Chargers team in the thin air of Mile High where it is expected to be 42 degrees and windy at kickoff. A healthy Ryan Matthews could have made a difference but without him at 100%, Denver will control the ball more and that’s more time for Manning to do his thing. CBS gets their dream matchup in the AFC Championship.
PREDICTION: Broncos 31, Chargers 17
Post Season Prediction Record to Date
- v. Winners: 5-1
- v. Spread: 5-0-1
- v. Over/Under: 4-2