The San Francisco 49ers (13-4) will beat the Carolina Panthers (12-4) by one point, 14-13, in the second NFC Divisional playoff game Sunday afternoon.
The two teams are frighteningly similar. Both Carolina and San Francisco feature strong defenses. The Panthers’ “D” was No. 1 in fantasy football scoring with 267 points. The 49ers’ defensive unit was No. 5 with 217 points.
The two starting quarterbacks are also very similar. Carolina’s Cam Newton and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick ran for a combined total of 1,124 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Newton threw more touchdown passes (24 versus 21), but also more interceptions (13 versus 8). Carolina’s starting quarterback finished at No. 5 in fantasy football scoring with 330 points. The 49ers’ starting QB is No. 12 with 295 points.
Both teams also like to run the football. San Francisco’s Frank Gore is No. 17 among running backs in fantasy football scoring with 174 points. DeAngelo Williams of Carolina is No. 24 with 141 points.
But the 49ers have the third best rushing defense in the NFL. Expect San Francisco to contain the Panther running attack and force Cam Newton to throw the football.
With Steve Smith’s injury problems, San Francisco has a distinct advantage in the passing game. The 49ers have dual pass receiving threats in wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. Boldin is No. 15 among wide receivers with 195.5 fantasy football points and Crabtree, after being slowed by an injury, is peaking at the right time of year. In the wild card game, he caught eight passes for 125 yards.
Carolina counters with wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. (a former 49er), Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith (listed as “questionable" for the game). Ginn Jr. is No. 34 among wide receivers with 138 points and LaFell is No. 55 with 110.5 points.
Newton’s favorite target is tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is No. 8 among tight ends in fantasy football scoring with 146.5 points, but San Francisco’s Vernon Davis is No. 2 with 182 points.
These two teams met in week 10 with Carolina winning 10-9. It should be another low-scoring game, but the 49ers have a knack for winning close NFC playoff games.