What: San Francisco 49ers (5 seed) AT Carolina Panthers (2 seed)
Where: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
When: Sunday January 12th, 2013. Kickoff: 1:05PM
Why: The winner of this game will move onto the NFC Championship game, getting one step closer to the ultimate goal.
Sunday will without a doubt be a special day in Charlotte and all of the Carolinas as the anticipation for the Panther’s first home postseason game in six years continues to rise. From the all black jerseys, to the chant of Luuuuuuuuuke as the all-pro linebacker runs out of tunnel, to the atmosphere of a game at Bank of America Stadium, you can’t help but to be excited for this one. Even FOX is expecting great things from this contest as they plan to send their “A” team to Charlotte which consists of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver.
Now that you know all the details, let’s get you up to speed as far as what to expect come Sunday afternoon. First of all, these teams have already met once this year. The outcome of that game was huge for the Panthers, as they were able to solidify themselves as contenders with a 10-9 win over the Niners. Although this was a tremendous victory for the Carolina, San Francisco was not at full strength. Their star pass rusher Aldon Smith was limited and deep threat TE Vernon Davis was not available for most of the game after he was hit hard in the first half. On top of that, Michael Crabtree, a man who can catch anything, according to Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, was not active. That does not take anything away from what the Panthers were able to do. Their defense lead the way and the offensive came up with a timely field goal in the fourth quarter which was all the Panthers needed to secure an impressive victory.
What to watch for Sunday: Cam Newton
We all know that Newton has played in his share of big games throughout his days under center. Most notably, he Auburn to a National Championship title in his final year as a Tiger in 2011. In likely his biggest game in a Carolina Panther’s uniform, Newton will need to elevate his game. What makes it interesting is the fact that he’s matched up against the 49ers Colin Kaepernick. The reason that a lot of people are giving the Niners an edge is based off the success that Kaepernick has had in the postseason. Kaepernick deserves all the credit he’s receiving, but you can’t count out Cam as his postseason career is just beginning.
Veteran WR Steve Smith
It’s apparent that Smitty isn’t 100%, so we’ll need to realize that he’s not gonna be his normal self. With that being said, we all know that Steve Smith is gonna do anything he can to make an impact.
Who moves on?
This should truly be a great defensive battle. I, like many people, see no reason as to why this game will be high scoring. The game will be determined by whoever comes up with a better game plan against these tough defensive teams. In the end, I think the Panthers will use the excitement of a great crowd to beat the Niners by a score of 16-13.